SA Under-20 flyhalf Damian Willemse is one of three uncapped players included in the Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, with the Emirates Lions quartet of Malcolm Marx (hooker), Warren Whiteley (No 8), Ross Cronje (scrumhalf) and Lionel Mapoe (centre) also back in the Bok fold for the first time this season.
Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, announced a squad of 35 players on Monday, with two loose forwards, the Vodacom Bulls’ Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink of the Emirates Lions, joining Willemse, the 20-year-old DHL Stormers and Junior Springbok flyhalf, as the uncapped players in the group.
Whiteley and the experienced Eben Etzebeth (lock) both return having recovered from long-term injuries, while Marx has shrugged off his hamstring troubles, which forced him to miss the June internationals.
Also returning to the Springbok squad are Francois Louw, the experienced flanker who plays for English club side Bath, Lwazi Mvovo (outside back), as well Mapoe (centre) and Cronje (scrumhalf), both of whom missed the midyear Tests because of injury.
Louw has represented the Boks in 57 Tests and Erasmus said he will add a lot of experience to the group.
“Eben and Warren have been out of the Bok mix for a while because of injury so it’s very pleasing to have them back in the squad, while Malcolm has regained his good form with the Emirates Lions since recovering from his injury,” said Erasmus, who added that the participation of Brink and Jean-Luc Preez (loose forward) is dependent on medical examinations.
“We saw the benefit and impact of Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk in the squad during the June internationals and I want ‘Flo’ to perform a similar role for us.
“It is also pleasing to again add some young players who been showing good form and consistency for their franchise teams during Vodacom Super Rugby,” Erasmus added, in reference to the uncapped trio of Willemse, Van Staden and Brink.
Siya Kolisi retains the captaincy, while Le Roux (fullback, Wasps) and De Klerk (scrumhalf, Sale Sharks), both of whom were outstanding during the 2-1 Castle Lager Incoming Series win over England in June, are amongst the 15 backs in the squad.
The bulk of the players have been training in Stellenbosch for a few weeks, with the Emirates Lions contingent set to join them on Wednesday. The men from Johannesburg returned to South Africa on Monday after their Vodacom Super Rugby final appearance on Saturday against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The squad will continue with preparations in Cape Town until Friday and following a two-day break will then reassemble in Durban next Sunday to continue with their build-up towards the Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener on 18 August against Argentina at Jonsson Kings Park. The two sides meet again a week later in Mendoza.
Players who were not considered because of injury include Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), Warrick Gelant, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane (all Vodacom Bulls), Coenie Oosthuizen and Sbu Nkosi (both Cell C Sharks).
The Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (in alphabetical order – name and surname, franchise/club, Test caps and points):
Cyle Brink (Loose forward, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
Jean-Luc du Preez (Loose forward, Cell C Sharks, 13, 10 – 2t)
Thomas du Toit (Prop, Cell C Sharks, 4, 0)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Lock / Loose forward, DHL Stormers, 36, 20 – 4t)
Eben Etzebeth (Lock, DHL Stormers, 67, 15 – 3t)
Steven Kitshoff (Prop, DHL Stormers, 27, 5 – 1t)
Siya Kolisi (Captain – Loose forward, DHL Stormers, 31, 20 – 4t)
Francois Louw (Loose forward, Bath, England, 57, 45 – 9t)
Wilco Louw (Prop, DHL Stormers, 7, 0)
Frans Malherbe (Prop, DHL Stormers, 19, 0)
Malcolm Marx (Hooker, Emirates Lions, 14, 15 – 3t)
Bongi Mbonambi (Hooker, DHL Stormers, 16, 5 – 1t)
Franco Mostert (Lock, Emirates Lions, 21, 5 – 1t)
Tendai Mtawarira (Prop, Cell C Sharks, 101, 10 – 2t)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Loose forward, DHL Stormers, 4, 0)
Marvin Orie (Lock, Emirates Lions, 1, 0)
RG Snyman (Lock, Vodacom Bulls, 3, 0)
Akker van der Merwe (Hooker, Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
Marco van Staden (Loose forward, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Warren Whiteley (No 8, Emirates Lions, 17, 15 – 3t)
Lukhanyo Am (Centre, Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
Ross Cronjé (Scrumhalf, Emirates Lions, 10, 10 – 2t)
Faf de Klerk (Scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, England, 14, 5 – 1t)
Aphiwe Dyantyi (Wing, Emirates Lions, 3, 5 – 1t)
André Esterhuizen (Centre, Cell C Sharks, 2, 0)
Elton Janjies (Flyhalf, Emirates Lions, 26, 215 – 2t, 41c, 41p)
Jesse Kriel (Centre, Vodacom Bulls, 32, 45 – 9t)
Willie le Roux (Fullback, Wasps, England, 44, 55 – 11t)
Makazole Mapimpi (Wing, Cell C Sharks, 1, 5 – 1t)
Lionel Mapoe (Centre, Emirates Lions, 12, 0)
Lwazi Mvovo (Wing, Cell C Sharks, 17, 30 – 6t)
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 2, 0)
Handré Pollard (Flyhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 29, 246 – 3t, 42c, 46p, 3d)
Ivan van Zyl (Scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 3, 0)
Damian Willemse (Flyhalf, DHL Stormers, uncapped)