Rudy Paige in his Springbok RWC jersey (Gallo Images)
Durban - Uncapped scrumhalf Rudy Paige was a shock inclusion on Friday in the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad after being ignored during four warm-up matches.
The 26-year-old Bulls No 9 and 30 other players were named by coach Heyneke Meyer for the global rugby showpiece from September 18 to October 31 in England and Wales.
Paige is one of a record nine black players selected after the racial composition of the predominantly white Springboks recently became an emotive public and media issue.
National trade union umbrella body Cosatu claimed five unnamed blacks in the national squad recently complained of discrimination.
But black prop Trevor Nyakane defended the selection policy of Meyer, adding that he doubted whether any of the preliminary World Cup squad had gone to the trade union.
Forwards Tendai Mtawarira, Nyakane and Siya Kolisi and backs Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo and Damian de Allende are the other players of colour going to England.
The inclusion of Paige comes after he watched from the stands as the Springboks played Argentina twice, Australia and world champions New Zealand during July and August, losing three of the four Tests.
Paige was effectively the fourth choice scrumhalf behind injured Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar and Cobus Reinach.
Pienaar from Irish province Ulster started each match and Reinach was used off the bench, only to be dropped for the World Cup.
Du Preez, among nine survivors of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, got the nod in a remarkable show of faith by Meyer given the halfback last played in February this year.
Skipper and inside centre Jean de Villiers and No 8 Duane Vermeulen are other players who have had fitness issues who will be on the plane to England.
De Villiers completed a miraculous recovery from a knee injury only to break his jaw on his Test comeback in a humiliating home defeat by Argentina.
Vermeulen, a powerful ball-carrier who epitomises the physicality of the Springbok pack, underwent neck surgery after a mid-year injury failed to heal.
Du Preez and De Villiers partly owe their places to a coach who emphasises experience, believing it to be a prerequisite for World Cup glory.
"You need experienced players because they have been to the World Cup and have dealt with pressure," stressed Meyer recently.
"When players are under pressure, some can do things that make you wonder whether they have ever been coached."
True to his word, Meyer has saturated the squad with experience.
Lock Victor Matfield - the old man of the squad at 38 - and loose forward Schalk Burger will be going to the World Cup for the fourth time.
And for many others, it will be a third appearance at a quadrennial tournament dominated by the three southern hemisphere giants.
Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have each lifted the trophy twice, with the 2003 success of England in Sydney the lone northern hemisphere triumph.
Alberts, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du
Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Siya
Kolisi, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield (vice-captain),
Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss,
Backs: Jean de Villiers
(captain), Damian de Allende, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Zane
Kirchner, Jesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy
Paige, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn