Coach Jacques Nienaber says the Springboks have the necessary squad depth to compete in what will be a challenging tour of the northern hemisphere, despite injuries to several key players.
Nienaber announced his 32-man squad for South Africa’s three end-of-year Tests against Scotland, Wales and England, and included only two uncapped players – Salmaan Moerat and Grant Williams – in the touring party.
Commenting on his selection process, Nienaber said: “The core group of players who played a key role in the series against the British & Irish Lions, as well as the Rugby Championship, will remain together as we build consistency and continuity in our squad with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“We had to travel to Australia with an expanded squad due to the strict Covid-19 protocols in the country, but with the easing of travel restrictions to Europe and the UK, we were able to revert to a more manageable touring squad.
“We are two years out from the Rugby World Cup in France, and we have close to 20 Test matches before we start our defence of the title, so every match will count in terms of building confidence and consistency as a group.
“A number of players have put up their hands in the Currie Cup and the first four rounds of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, which is great for our local game, and while they remain on our radar, we’ve decided to stick with the core of our 2021 squad for this tour.”
While Williams has not been capped, he has been in the Bok squad before, but this marks Moerat’s first call-up to the national team.
“Salmaan has established himself as a talented lock and captain since his younger days in our junior structures and he has continued to show his class at senior level for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province,” said Nienaber.
“His call-up is well earned, and we are looking forward to witnessing what he adds to the squad. He is also familiar with most of the players in the squad having either played with them or against them, so we have no doubt he will slot in with ease.”
The Boks will be without Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk, Frans Malherbe and RG Snyman, who have all joined teammate Pieter-Steph du Toit on the long-term injury list, but Nienaber believes there’s enough depth in the squad to fill those players’ roles.
“It’s always unfortunate to lose players due to injury, but we have good depth in our squad, and these are established players who have proven themselves at the highest level.”
Nienaber expects tough competition on the tour and said: “We have built a good base this season after our series victory against the British & Irish Lions and victories against the All Blacks, Argentina and Georgia, although we were disappointed that the results did not go our way in the other three Tests in Australia [in the Rugby Championship].
“Obviously, this will be a completely different challenge to what we faced in South Africa and Australia earlier this year with the vastly different conditions and in terms of the teams we will face, but fortunately we got a taste of what to expect from the northern- hemisphere sides in the Lions series.
“England is in fourth place in the world rankings, and Scotland and Wales are in seventh and ninth place, respectively, and they are all top-class teams that will want to make a strong statement in front of their home crowds, so we need to get into the swing of things quickly when we assemble.”
Photo: Steve Haag Sports