Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer still wants to recall Toulon lock Bakkies Botha but said on Wednesday he would bring back the veteran World Cup winner only if there was a place for him as a starter.
Meyer had wanted to pick Botha on the bench in this season's Rugby Championship, but that was reportedly blocked by Bernard Laporte, Botha's coach at French club Toulon.
Ahead of South Africa's upcoming tour of Britain and Ireland, Meyer said he was still considering Botha, but couldn't yet guarantee him a starting place. Meyer instead put London Wasps lock Marco Wentzel on standby for the three-game tour.
"I've been thinking about Bakkies, because I know what he can do," Meyer said. "He can do a great job as an enforcer but I don't want to call him up to sit on the bench."
Botha, 33, played the last of his 76 Tests at the World Cup in New Zealand last year before moving to France.
South Africa recalled Toulouse prop Gurthrö Steenkamp and Saracens hooker Schalk Brits for games against Ireland, Scotland and England from next week, but will be without injured record try-scorer Bryan Habana.
Steenkamp and Brits were northern hemisphere-based players in the 31-man squad alongside Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and Bath flanker Francois Louw. Wentzel, who played two Tests for the Springboks in 2002, was ready to join the squad in case of injury, Meyer said.
Five uncapped players, including 19-year-old wing Raymond Rhule, were included with the 2015 World Cup in England already in Meyer's thinking.
"The World Cup will be in England and we have a chance to see the players in (English) conditions. We have a lot of youngsters in the mix, and they're exciting," Meyer said. "It's an opportunity to get them into the game plan and see how they tour and how they handle it."
Steenkamp and Brits would add northern hemisphere experience, with South Africa missing a string of injured forwards including prop Coenie Oosthuizen, hookers Bismarck du Plessis and Tiaan Liebenberg, lock Andries Bekker, No 8 Pierre Spies and long-term absentees Schalk Burger and Juan Smith.
"We're struggling with injuries in the front row, and I believe, especially in Europe, you need big scrummagers. In Europe every scrum is a battle," Meyer said.
Young Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie was in contention to start at No 10 on tour after an injury to newcomer Johan Goosen and the loss of form of regular playmaker Morné Steyn.
South Africa's problems at No 10 were partly to blame for their struggles in their first Rugby Championship under Meyer, who took over at the beginning of the year. The No 2-ranked Springboks won just two of six games and were held to a surprise draw in Argentina.
The Boks fly to Europe on Saturday and play Ireland on November 10, Scotland on November 17 and England on November 24 on their traditional end-of-season trip.
"The tour is part of a long season and I cannot use it as an excuse because we want to win every Test," Meyer said.