Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says the talented group of youngsters who have been named in the 46-man squad to face the British & Irish Lions all deserve their opportunity.
The entire 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squad, except for the retired trio of Tendai Mtawarira, Francois Louw and Schalk Brits, and the injured Warrick Gelant, were named in Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber’s squad.
The eight uncapped players are Joseph Dweba (hooker), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (lock), Jasper Wiese (loose forward), Sanele Nohamba (scrumhalf), Wandisile Simelane (centre), Yaw Penxe, Rosko Specman (both wings) and Aphelele Fassi (fullback).
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said the selection of the squad followed a detailed process, including several alignment camps both locally and abroad, as well as visits by the Bok coaching staff to the various local franchise teams.
‘We have been keeping a close eye on the players’ performances since professional rugby resumed late last season and we followed that up with a series of alignment camps and franchise visits,’ said Erasmus.
‘We have put together a very talented group of players, and we believe the vast experience in the group will complement the exciting bunch of youngsters.
‘Several players have been plying their trade abroad, and that has enabled them to rack up quality game time in top-class competitions against world-class opposition, many of whom were included in the Lions squad, while the locally based players have also been able to build up quality game time over a number of competitions.’
Nienaber, who will make his first appearance as Springbok head coach when the team take the field, echoed Erasmus’ sentiments about the quality of the squad, and he looked forward to a memorable start to the international season.
‘It is a surreal feeling to name a Springbok squad after such a long absence from international rugby, and the fact that these players will have a chance to measure themselves in such a special tour makes it even more remarkable,’ said Nienaber.
‘Players such as Frans and Morne have been here before and they can attest to the huge privilege it is to be part of a British & Irish Lions tour, so I am very excited for this squad.
‘The squad feature a bunch of Rugby World Cup winners who know what it takes to perform and be successful at the highest level, as well as a handful of very talented young players who all proved that they deserve an opportunity at this level.’
Nienaber added: ‘A huge challenge lies ahead, and the fact that we will be taking on this task after a 20-month absence from international rugby means we need to hit the ground running.
‘The Tests against the passionate Georgian team will be tough. They are very physical, and their passion shows in their performances, and this is the kind of preparation we need going into the Lions series.’
The team will kick off their preparations on Monday with a three-week conditioning camp in Bloemfontein. The locally based players will assemble at their base on Sunday, with the overseas-based players joining in clusters according to their club commitments.
The squad will be trimmed following the encounter between the South Africa A team and British & Irish Lions.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images