Rugby World Cup 2011
Experience the key for Boks
Peter de Villiers (File)
Pretoria - The country's two most experienced Test players, the most experienced lock pairing and the most experienced centre pairing to date, as well as 21 players who know the taste of champagne from the Webb Ellis Trophy, are among the 49 players from which Peter de Villiers will select his squad for the World Cup in September.
De Villiers on Monday announced
a very experienced squad from which he will select 30 players on 23 August for the defence of the Word Cup.
The squad boasts 1 388 Tests between them and mostly consists of players that have been in De Villiers's plans since 2008.
Victor Matfield and John Smit are the country's most experienced players in Tests, Matfield and Bakkies Botha hold the record as lock pairing, and Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie are this year aiming for 50 Tests as a centre combination. There certainly won't be a lack of experience at the coach's disposal.
There are not really surprise omissions, though players such as Peter Grant and Sarel Pretorius will be wondering whether De Villiers and his selectors watched Super Rugby this year.
Pretorius, in particular, could feel aggrieved that he did not make the squad ahead of Ricky Januarie, while Grant's contribution to an outstanding Stormers team is far greater than that of Elton Jantjies to a struggling Lions side.
There was also the unexpected inclusion of former Sharks lock Johann Muller, who plays for Ulster these days. Dean Greyling, who was in the enlarged squad for the November tours, has also been called up.
Muller actually moved to Northern Ireland as he was no longer a Bok contender, but still maintained his good form at Ulster.
Greyling has played really well for the Bulls since stepping into the breach for the injured Gurthrö Steenkamp, but admits that he was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had made the squad.
"It's nice to know that you are seen. I was not really upset about not being in that first squad of 51 because my goal this year was to play a solid Super Rugby tournament. Fortunately I got a lot of opportunities with Guthie (Steenkamp) injured," said Greyling.
"Look, it's every guy's dream to play for the Boks and has been mine since I was five years old. That is why this is good news. I realise this is just a preliminary squad, but it's good to know I'm in the picture."
Springbok prop BJ Botha was also called up, which may be a pointer to SA Rugby not being able to solve the passport problems of Northampton Saints prop Brian Mujati.
The omission of World Cup-winning prop CJ van der Linde means the end of the road for him.
"We have a good squad here with the right blend of experience and youth. There are also a few players who have not yet played Test rugby and played their way into the squad during the Super Rugby tournament," said De Villiers.
He could just as well have mentioned Ashley Johnson here.
The Tri-Nations squad will also come from these players and will be announced on 2 or 9 July depending on the success of either the Sharks or Stormers in the play-off phase of the Super Rugby tournament.