Meyer recalls Test veterans

Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Frans Steyn and Heinrich Brüssow have been included in the Springboks' 36-man training squad named on Monday.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to recall the four Test veterans, who haven't played for South Africa for some time. Burger, Matfield and Brüssow last featured for the Boks in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final against Australia, while Steyn's last Test was against New Zealand in September 2012.

The bad news for the Boks is that another seasoned player in Jaque Fourie has sustained a serious ankle injury, and may be sidelined for the entire Test season.

The national training camp will take place in Durban between 25 and 28 May. There are eight new faces in the group: Sharks back S'bura Sithole, Cheetahs winger Cornal Hendricks, Cheetahs lock Lood de Jager, Cheetahs flank Teboho Mohoje, Bulls prop Marcel van der Merwe, Bulls flank Jacques du Plessis, Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff and Stormers’ back Damian de Allende.

Meyer said he was happy to have the veterans back in the mix. Injuries have prevented Burger and Steyn's involvement in the past season or so, and their return will undoubtedly boost the Boks' depth in the flank and centre positions. The most significant return to action, however, will be that of Matfield, as the Boks are in dire need of an experienced No 5 lock.

Matfield's recall has been on the cards for some time. He is expected to resume that role of lineout manager in the matches against the World XV, Wales and Scotland.

Meyer is short of genuine No 5 options given the serious injuries sustained by Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco van der Merwe during the Super Rugby season. Flip van der Merwe will be listed as cover for Matfield, as will a player like Eben Etzebeth, although both are better enforcers than lineout managers.

The uncapped De Jager has been included in this training group, but is unlikely to feature unless there are further injuries in the second row.

'Victor and Schalk have been out of rugby for a long time. They’ve really been in great form recently and the fact that they have not been with the Boks for more than two years has made them hungry for Test rugby yet again,' said Meyer. 'It’s great to welcome them back into the Springbok fold and I know both of them can still add a lot of value to the team with the World Cup in 2015 looming.'

Players based in France, England and Ireland were not considered for this camp as most of them are still playing for their respective clubs.

Someone like Francois Louw, who is based at English club Bath, should return to play at openside flank for the Boks. Nevertheless, Meyer is keen to explore other options, which is why he has selected Brüssow.

'I’m looking forward to working with Heinrich for the first time. He’s been playing very well for the Cheetahs since returning from injury and brings a lot of experience.

'However, the message to every player in this training squad is clear – everyone must accelerate in each area from the first moment we are together as a team and that inclusion in this squad is no guarantee of selection.'

Meyer said that injuries had been a concern but they had allowed other players to press their claims. A number of players in the squad are still nursing niggles or recently returned from long-term injuries.

'This camp will provide us with a great opportunity to work with these players before the squad for the incoming series is finalised [on 31 May]. This is a very big year for us and the players know they will have to step up a gear, be sharp and focused from the moment we get going in Durban. We have 14 very challenging matches ahead in 2014 and it’s imperative that we build on what was a good season last year.

'It’s important that we start building continuity because there are just 18 matches left until the World Cup starts. But it’s just as important to recognise continuous good form. We also have a number of players struggling with injury niggles or returning from injury who we have to assess.'

The players invited to the training camp will assemble in Durban on Sunday morning and will return to their franchises on Wednesday morning.

Players who were involved with the Boks last year, but were not considered for selection because of medium to long-term injuries, are Scarra Ntubeni (foot), Chiliboy Ralepelle (knee), Frik Kirsten (neck), Du Toit (knee), Van der Merwe (ankle), Arno Botha (knee), Pierre Spies (bicep), Louis Schreuder (hand), Pat Lambie (bicep), Gio Aplon (elbow) and Fourie (ankle).

Springbok training squad:

Forwards (20): Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Cheetahs), Marcel van der Merwe (Bulls), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Willem Alberts (Sharks), Jacques du Plessis (Bulls), Teboho Mohoje (Cheetahs), Duane Vermeulen (Stormers), Schalk Burger (Stormers).

Backs (16): Fourie du Preez (Suntory, Japan), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Johan Goosen (Cheetahs), Marnitz Boshoff (Lions), Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Damian de Allende (Stormers), Jan Serfontein (Bulls), Juan de Jongh (Stormers), JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), S’bura Sithole (Sharks), Frans Steyn (Sharks), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Bjorn Basson (Bulls), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs), Willie le Roux (Cheetahs).

Super Schalk showed his value

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Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

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