Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus named a strong squad of 39 players and an additional 14 players on a standby list for the Castle Lager Incoming Series.

The season which kicks off with a challenging two Tests against Ireland on Saturday, 6 July, followed by a one-off Test against Portugal, with nine players who were not available for selection for the Wales Test and three uncapped players featuring in the 39-man squad.

The three uncapped players named in the squad were Vodacom Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar and front rower Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Hollywoodbets Sharks looseforward Phepsi Buthelezi, while Cheslin Kolbe (wing) and Lukhanyo Am (centre) - who joined the Springbok squad at different stages during the training camp in Pretoria to do their rehabilitation under the supervision of the Bok medical team – are back from injury.

Handre Pollard (flyhalf) and Jasper Wiese, who trained with the team but were ineligible for selection due to the Wales Test falling outside of the international window have also been named in the squad, although Wiese will only be available for selection once he completes his suspension from a dangerous tackle.

Erasmus also called up Rugby World Cup winners Siya Kolisi – the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cup-winning captain – and RG Snyman (lock), who both joined the squad in London following their club commitments - as well as Marco van Staden (flanker), Kurt-Lee Arendse (utility back) and Willie le Roux (fullback), who wrapped up their Vodacom United Rugby Championship season with the Vodacom Bulls in the grand final against the Glasgow Warriors on Saturday night.

Three players who made their Test debuts against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, which the team won 41-13 – Edwill van der Merwe (wing), Ben-Jason Dixon (utility forward) and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (utility back) – were included in the group.

The 39-man squad features 22 forwards and 17 backline players, with Erasmus set to name the captain for the competition closer to the Ireland Test.

Erasmus, however, declared that three players Faf de Klerk (quadriceps), Van der Merwe (shoulder) and Mapimpi (hamstring) had picked up niggles in the Wales Test – but he was satisfied that there was enough cover in the squad with Arendse, Kolbe and Am available for selection.

The coach’s standby list, in turn, includes six capped Springboks – Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward), Joseph Dweba (hooker), Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf), Elrigh Louw (No 8), Wilco Louw, Nuthuko Mchunu (both props), with six of the players - Neethling Fouche (prop), Mchunu, Andre-Hugo Venter (hooker), Hendrikse, Ethan Hooker (utility back) and Quan Horn (fullback) - being members of the Bok travelling squad to London. 

These players will train with the team at stages during the next four weeks before the team’s historic Test against Portugal on Saturday 20 July, and could be called up at short notice in the event of injuries during the Ireland Tests.

Eight players, meanwhile, were ruled out of contention for selection due to injury, namely Steven Kitshoff (prop), Jean Kleyn, Lood de Jager (both locks), Cameron Hanekom (flanker), Jaden Hendrikse (scrumhalf), Henco van Wyk (centre), Canan Moodie and Damian Willemse (both utility backs).  

“We named the best squad available for the Castle Incoming Series, and with squad depth being one of our key pillars as we build toward to the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the Test against Portugal, we thought it would be beneficial to us to name a standby squad with a few players who will join us at training sporadically in the next few weeks,” said Erasmus. “Unfortunately, a handful of players are carrying injuries and were ruled out of the selection mix, but our plan to build depth in the last few years and expose players to Test rugby in the build-up to the 2023 RWC and against Wales last weekend certainly paid off.

“It’s great to have the overseas-based and Vodacom Bulls players back in the mix and with many of them being Rugby World Cup-winners, they will bring experience and calm heads to the team,” said Erasmus. “Over and above that, some of the young players who were part of our travelling squad to London really impressed us over the last two weeks, and while some of them have been included in this group, we were limited in terms of the number of players we could pick, so there will always be a few unlucky players.”

Erasmus welcomed the uncapped players to the initial squad of 39 – Grobbelaar and Wessels, as well as those in the standby squad – and he hoped they would grab the opportunity with both hands.

“Johan and Jan-Hendrik really impressed us at the alignment camps we hosted in the year, and they are talented players with a bright future, so we are keen to see what they can do and the dynamic they add to the team,” said Erasmus. “They are skilful players with immense talent and their selection will offer them a great opportunity to make their mark. 

“Jan-Hendrik is equally efficient at prop and hooker, which increases our front-row options and hopefully with their talent and drive, they will add great value to the squad.

“We also saw what the uncapped players in the travelling squad for the Wales Test have to offer and we have no doubt that if they receive an opportunity to run out in the green and gold this season, they will give their best and wear the badge with pride.”

Erasmus said the standby squad could come into the selection mix for the Test against Portugal particularly as they continue to expose a few young players to international rugby.

“We have a jam-packed three weeks lined up with training and the Ireland Test Series, and we’ll look at bringing in the standby players intermittently within the next few weeks to train with us and continue to familiarise themselves with our systems, especially with an eye on the Portugal Test,” said Erasmus.

He added: “This year marks the start of building toward to the 2027 Rugby World Cup, so we would like to continue exposing players to international rugby with an eye on that objective.”

The 39-man squad gathered in Pretoria on Tuesday and will continue with their training schedule, despite arriving in South Africa a day later than expected after their flight from London to South Africa was cancelled on Sunday night. They will return home for the weekend to spend time with their families and resume their Test week training schedule on Monday I July for the clash against Ireland at Loftus Versfeld.

Springbok squad for Castle Lager Incoming Series [July]:

Forwards: 

Phepsi Buthelezi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ben-Jason Dixon (DHL Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Thomas du Toit (Bath), Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks). Johan Grobbelaar (Vodacom Bulls), Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Siya Kolisi (Racing 92), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92/Hollywoodbets Sharks), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Blu Revs), RG Snyman (Munster/Leinster), Gerhard Steenekamp (Vodacom Bulls), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), Jan-Hendrik Wessels (Vodacom Bulls), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers). 

Backs: 

Lukhanyo Am (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), Damian de Allende (Wild Knights), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins/Hollywoodbets Sharks), Aphelele Fassi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (DHL Stormers), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Wilie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls), Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier), Morne van den Berg (Emirates Lions), Edwill van der Merwe (Emirates Lions), Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks). 

Players on standby:

Forwards: Jean-Luc du Preez (Sale Sharks), Joseph Dweba, Neethling Fouche (both DHL Stormers), Celimpilo Gumede, Elrigh Louw, Wilco Louw (all Vodacom Bulls), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ruben van Heerden (DHL Stormers), Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers).  

Backs: Suleiman Hartzenberg (DHL Stormers), Jordan Hendrikse (Emirates Lions), Ethan Hooker (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Quan Horn (Emirates Lions), Siya Masuku (Hollywoodbets Sharks). 

Springbok fixtures:

Saturday, 22 June: SA vs Wales (Twickenham, London)

Saturday, 6 July: SA vs Ireland (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)

Saturday, 13 July: SA vs Ireland (Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban)

Saturday, 20 July: SA vs Portugal (Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)

Saturday, 10 August: Australia vs SA (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)

Saturday, 17 August: Australia vs SA (Optus Stadium, Perth)

Saturday, 31 August: SA vs New Zealand (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)

Saturday, 7 September: SA v New Zealand (DHL Stadium, Cape Town)

Saturday, 21 September: Argentina v SA (Estadio Unico Madre Ciudades, Santiago)

Saturday, 28 September: SA v Argentina (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit)

Sunday, 10 November: Scotland vs SA (Murrayfield, Edinburgh)

Saturday, 16 November: England vs SA (Twickenham, London)

Saturday, 23 November: Wales vs SA (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)