Experienced lock Eben Etzebeth will captain the Springboks in the injury absence of Warren Whiteley. Loose forward Siya Kolisi will be the Springbok vice-captain.
Etzebeth led the Springboks in the last test of the three-match series against France in June, when Whiteley was ruled out of action because of a groin injury.
Whiteley missed the remainder of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign as a result of the injury, and he will be out of action for at least six more weeks, ruling him out for the opening part of the 2017 Rugby Championship.
Promising young flyhalf Curwin Bosch, No 8 Dan du Preez and fullback Warrick Gelant were on Saturday included in the 34-man Springbok squad for the start of the 2017 Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign. The 22-year old Du Preez is the twin brother of Springbok loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez.
Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee, said he is pleased with the largely unchanged squad, which allows for greater continuity and consistency.
“Our players must be well-conditioned, match-fit and also be able to make good on-field decisions. We are also looking for continuity, experience and combinations – all elements which I believe are reflected in the current
The Springbok group gets together on Tuesday, 8 August in Port Elizabeth to start their preparations for the 2017 campaign, which kicks off their on 19 August against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Coetzee furthermore praised the good form of the Bok players during the French series and the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, which have allowed him to keep squad changes to a minimum.
“All of the Springboks who were in action in the June tests and the latter part of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign played very well and I have no doubt that they will bring that form with them when we assemble,” explained Coetzee.
“Some players have initially missed out on selection due to various reasons, but this squad is not cast in stone and changes can be made as we progress through the tournament.
“I always said it must be difficult for a player to force himself into the squad, and I am really pleased that through their performances they have again earned selection to the Springbok group.”
The uncapped trio of Bosch, Du Preez and Gelant, as well as experienced prop Trevor Nyakane, flanker Uzair Cassiem and flyhalf Handré Pollard are the only players in the squad that were not part of the Springboks’ 3-0 test series win over France in June.
Coetzee emphasised that the Castle Lager Rugby Championship will pose a different challenge to the Boks over the next two months.
“The next six contests will be completely different to what we faced against France in June,” said the Bok coach.
“ We will have to work even harder to meet these tough challenges against the Pumas, Wallabies and All Blacks. Thorough preparation is once again crucial to our campaign and I am therefore pleased that we could manage to work with some of the players in Stellenbosch last week as those players would have been out of action for almost a month by the time we assemble in Port Elizabeth.”
Gelant impressed for the SA ‘A’ team against the French Barbarians in June and has been performing consistently well for the Vodacom Bulls this year, especially during the latter part of Vodacom Super Rugby. The 20-year old Bosch had a similar good season with the Cell C Sharks and the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
“Warrick is a good attacking player that finishes his try scoring opportunities well. Curwin has shown a lot of promise when playing fullback and flyhalf, and has exceptional kicking abilities, while Dan has performed consistently well for the Cell C Sharks. We will introduce them to the Springbok environment and I am looking forward to working with all three,” said Coetzee.
The inclusion of Pollard is to monitor his rehabilitation and conditioning first hand and also to assess his return to play protocol. The 23-year-old flyhalf has earned 20 Boks caps already but he missed the entire 2016 season because of a knee injury and saw limited Vodacom Super Rugby action this year because of his ankle injury. He attended the camp in Stellenbosch, where he took part in some training sessions and also did extra rehabilitation and fitness exercises under the supervision of the Springbok medical and conditioning team.
No 8 Warren Whiteley was withdrawn because of his groin injury, which will most likely keep him out of action for six more weeks. Whiteley captained the Boks in the first two test against France and missed the final match in Johannesburg because of his groin problem, which also forced him to miss the rest of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.
“Warren’s absence is a massive blow for the Springboks and for him personally. I really feel for him but I am sure he will get back stronger. It gives an opportunity for another player now and I am sure there will be very strong competition for the No 8 jersey.”
Meanwhile, experienced prop Tendai Mtawarira is recovering from a neck injury sustained in June. He will however join the Bok squad in Port Elizabeth, where his return to play will be closely monitored and a call on his availability for selection will be made during the course of the two weeks.
“We have planned for all eventualities replacements will only be called upon when needed,” Coetzee emphasised.
According to Coetzee, Nyakane has the ability to cover both sides of the scrum, which he has done at test match level already and is a bonus when touring with a smaller squad.
“Trevor has worked hard and has met conditioning targets which were set before the June series,” explained Coetzee.
Frans Steyn was not considered for selection at this time as a decision was made that it was in the player’s best interest to have a good pre-season following a prolonged layoff since June and a gruelling European season.
The Bok coach also praised the Emirates Lions for reaching the Vodacom Super Rugby Final and wished their coach Johann Ackermann well with the next chapter in his coaching career. “He can be proud of his legacy at the Emirates Lions,” said Coetzee. “However, I am looking forward to continue with the Boks’ preparation when all the players report for duty on Tuesday.”
Uzair Cassiem (flank/No 8), Toyota Cheetahs – 1 cap,
Lood de Jager (lock), Vodacom Bulls – 29 caps
Dan du Preez (No 8), Cell C Sharks - uncapped
Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward), Cell C Sharks – 4 caps
Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock), DHL Stormers – 23 caps
Eben Etzebeth (lock), DHL Stormers – 57 caps
Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Vodacom Bulls – uncapped
Steven Kitshoff (prop), DHL Stormers – 13 caps
Siya Kolisi (flank), DHL Stormers – 19 caps
Jaco Kriel (loose forward), Emirates Lions/Kubota Spears (Jap)
Frans Malherbe (prop), DHL Stormers – 17 caps
Malcolm Marx (hooker), Emirates Lions – 5 caps
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), DHL Stormers – 8 caps
Oupa Mohoje (loose forward), Toyota Cheetahs – 17 caps
Franco Mostert (lock), Emirates Lions/Ricoh Black Rams (Jap) – 10 caps
Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Cell C Sharks – 90 caps
Trevor Nyakane (prop), Vodacom Bulls – 28 caps
Coenie Oosthuizen (prop), Cell C Sharks – 26 caps
Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker), Cell C Sharks – 22 caps,
Curwin Bosch (flyhalf), Cell C Sharks – uncapped
Andries Coetzee (fullback), Emirates Lions – 3 caps
Ross Cronje (scrumhalf), Emirates Lions – 2 caps
Damian de Allende (centre), DHL Stormers – 22 caps
Warrick Gelant (fullback), Vodacom Bulls – uncapped
Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf), Worcester (England) – 42 caps
Elton Jantjies (flyhalf), Emirates Lions/NTT Shining Arcs (Jap) – 14 caps
Jesse Kriel (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 19 caps
Dillyn Leyds (utility back), DHL Stormers – 3 caps
Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), Vodacom Bulls – 8 caps
Handré Pollard (flyhalf), Vodacom Bulls – 20 caps
Raymond Rhule (wing), Toyota Cheetahs – 3 caps
Jan Serfontein (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 29 caps
Courtnall Skosan (wing), Emirates Lions – 3 caps
Francois Venter (centre), Toyota Cheetahs – 3 caps