Jacques Nienaber has included eight uncapped players in a 48-man Springbok squad chosen for the July series against Wales, the Rugby Championship, and the November tour to Europe.
Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn are the notable omissions. The incumbent Bok No 8, Vermeulen is believed to have been rested for the series to undergo surgery on a knee complaint, while Steyn appears to have been ruled out with the quad injury suffered during a Currie Cup match in Kimberley two weeks ago.
Vermeulen’s absence creates a vacancy that several of the uncapped players will vie for. The uncapped group includes No 8 Evan Roos (Stormers) and flank Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls), locks Ruan Nortje (Bulls) and Salmaan Moerat (Stormers), 35-year-old Stormers terrier Deon Fourie (listed as a utility forward), fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls), scrumhalf Grant Williams, and prop Ntuthuko Mchunu (both Sharks).
Steyn’s versatility as a tactician off the bench has been key to South Africa’s renowned Bomb Squad and it is expected that Stormers playmaker Damian Willemse will step into the role with Harlequins thumper Andre Esterhuizen providing specialist cover at No 12.
With the Bulls and Stormers advancing to the final of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship next week, Nienaber called up Roos, Fourie, Willemse, Warrick Gelant (who returns to the national set-up for the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup), Moerat and Marvin Orie (both locks), Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe (both props) and Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) from the Cape franchise, while Coetzee, Louw, Nortje and Arendse join from the Bulls.
Nienaber’s squad also includes a group of older hands in locks Eben Etzebeth (Sharks) and Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks), utility forwards Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Rynardt Elstadt (Toulouse) and Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), centres Damian de Allende (Munster), Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), props Vincent Koch (Saracens) and Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks scrumhalf), Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux hooker), flyhalves Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) and Handre Pollard (Montpellier), wing Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon), fullback Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), hooker Malcolm Marx (Kebota Spears) and No 8 Jasper Wiese (Leicester).
The remaining players are set to join the squad following their club and franchise commitments.
Bulls flyhalf Johan Goosen – who joined Cobus Reinach in the opening week – will also remain with the squad until of the conclusion of the camp to continue his rehabilitation, with Reinach set to remain with the group.
“Building squad depth is one of the key areas for us, and it is great to see the number of young players who have put up their hands this season, and we are delighted to invite them to the national squad environment,” said Nienaber.
“It is also good to welcome back some of the experienced players who have been part of our structures for a few years now, and I’m confident they will slot back into the set-up with ease.
“We obviously have to wait a little longer for some players to be released from their club commitments, but we are pleased to be able to announce the squad with exactly three weeks to go before our opening Test against Wales.”
Nienaber added: “We now have a bigger training squad, which will allow us to do a lot more at our training sessions, but most importantly it will give us more time to work with these players as we prepare for a challenging international season.”
Looking forward at the second week of the team’s preparation camp, Nienaber said: “The players laid a solid foundation for us to build from last week, and we are looking forward to taking things up a notch next week.
“Every training session and gym session will count as we look to get our structures well in place for the season ahead and to meet the standards we have set for ourselves by the time the Incoming Series kicks off.”
The Boks will jumpstart their 2022 season with three Tests against Wales on 2, 9 and 16 July, respectively, before launching into the Rugby Championship, where they will line up against the All Blacks in back-to-back home Tests, which will be followed by a tour to Australia and Argentina. They will then return home for their final Test against the Pumas in Durban in September.
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