Cape Town - SA Under-20 flyhalf Damian Willemse is one of three uncapped players included in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship, with the Lions quartet of Malcolm Marx (hooker), Warren Whiteley (No 8), Ross Cronje (scrumhalf) and Lionel Mapoe (centre) also back in the Bok fold for the first time this season.
Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, announced a squad of 35 players on Monday, with two loose forwards, the Bulls’ Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink of the Lions, joining Willemse, the 20-year-old Stormers and Junior Springbok flyhalf, as the uncapped players in the group.
Whiteley and the experienced Eben Etzebeth (lock) both return having recovered from long-term injuries, while Marx has shrugged off his hamstring troubles, which forced him to miss the June internationals.
Also returning to the Springbok squad are Francois Louw, the experienced flank who plays for English club side Bath, Lwazi Mvovo (outside back), as well Mapoe (centre) and Cronje (scrumhalf), both of whom missed the midyear Tests because of injury.
Louw has represented the Boks in 57 Tests and Erasmus said he will add a lot of experience to the group.
“Eben and Warren have been out of the Bok mix for a while because of injury so it’s very pleasing to have them back in the squad, while Malcolm has regained his good form with the Lions since recovering from his injury,” said Erasmus, who added that the participation of Brink and Jean-Luc Preez (loose forward) is dependent on medical examinations.
“We saw the benefit and impact of Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk in the squad during the June internationals and I want ‘Flo’ to perform a similar role for us.
“It is also pleasing to again add some young players who been showing good form and consistency for their franchise teams during Super Rugby,” Erasmus added, in reference to the uncapped trio of Willemse, Van Staden and Brink.
Siya Kolisi retains the captaincy, while Le Roux (fullback, Wasps) and De Klerk (scrumhalf, Sale Sharks), both of whom were outstanding during the 2-1 June series win over England in June, are among the 15 backs in the squad.
The bulk of the players have been training in Stellenbosch for a few weeks, with the Lions contingent set to join them on Wednesday. The men from Johannesburg returned to South Africa on Monday after their Super Rugby final appearance on Saturday against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The squad will continue with preparations in Cape Town until Friday and following a two-day break will then reassemble in Durban next Sunday to continue with their build-up towards the Rugby Championship opener on August 18 against Argentina at Kings Park. The two sides meet again a week later in Mendoza.
Players who were not considered because of injury include Damian de Allende (Stormers), Warrick Gelant, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane (all Bulls), Coenie Oosthuizen and Sbu Nkosi (both Sharks).
The Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship (in alphabetical order - name and surname, franchise/club, Test caps and points):
Cyle Brink (Loose forward, Lions, uncapped)
Jean-Luc du Preez (Loose forward, Sharks, 13, 10 - 2t)
Thomas du Toit (Prop, Sharks, 4, 0)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Lock / Loose forward, Stormers, 36, 20 - 4t)
Eben Etzebeth (Lock, Stormers, 67, 15 - 3t)
Steven Kitshoff (Prop, Stormers, 27, 5 - 1t)
Siya Kolisi (captain - Loose forward, Stormers, 31, 20 - 4t)
Francois Louw (Loose forward, Bath, England, 57, 45 - 9t)
Wilco Louw (Prop, Stormers, 7, 0)
Frans Malherbe (Prop, Stormers, 19, 0)
Malcolm Marx (Hooker, Lions, 14, 15 - 3t)
Bongi Mbonambi (Hooker, Stormers, 16, 5 - 1t)
Franco Mostert (Lock, Lions, 21, 5 - 1t)
Tendai Mtawarira (Prop, Sharks, 101, 10 - 2t)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Loose forward, Stormers, 4, 0)
Marvin Orie (Lock, Lions, 1, 0)
RG Snyman (Lock, Bulls, 3, 0)
Akker van der Merwe (Hooker, Sharks, 3, 0)
Marco van Staden (Loose forward, Bulls, uncapped)
Warren Whiteley (No 8, Lions, 17, 15 - 3t)
Lukhanyo Am (Centre, Sharks, 3, 0)
Ross Cronjé (Scrumhalf, Lions, 10, 10 - 2t)
Faf de Klerk (Scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, England, 14, 5 - 1t)
Aphiwe Dyantyi (Wing, Lions, 3, 5 - 1t)
André Esterhuizen (Centre, Sharks, 2, 0)
Elton Jantjies (Flyhalf, Lions, 26, 215 - 2t, 41c, 41p)
Jesse Kriel (Centre, Bulls, 32, 45 - 9t)
Willie le Roux (Fullback, Wasps, England, 44, 55 - 11t)
Makazole Mapimpi (Wing, Sharks, 1, 5 - 1t)
Lionel Mapoe (Centre, Lions, 12, 0)
Lwazi Mvovo (Wing, Sharks, 17, 30 - 6t)
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf, Bulls, 2, 0)
Handré Pollard (Flyhalf, Bulls, 29, 246 - 3t, 42c, 46p, 3d)
Ivan van Zyl (Scrumhalf, Bulls, 3, 0)
Damian Willemse (Flyhalf, Stormers, uncapped)