Rugby Championship 2015: Heyneke Meyer names South Africa squad
Head coach prepared to play waiting game over a number of experienced players rehabbing injuries ahead of Rugby World Cup
South Africa have named eight uncapped players in a large 49-man squad for their 2015 Rugby Championship campaign.
Springboks head coach Heyneke Meyer has selected a main squad of 36 with a further 13 players who will be considered for the shortened tournament that precedes the Rugby World Cup if they prove their fitness.
The next two months also provide the players with an opportunity to put themselves in contention to make the World Cup squad.
As well as the new faces in the squad, Meyer has recalled six players who did not feature for South Africa in 2014, including Sharks centre Frans Steyn, who walked out on the squad last summer.
Also returning are centre Jaque Fourie, Stade Français prop Heinke van der Merwe and Lions outside-half Elton Jantjies, while Cheetahs prop Heinrich Brüssow and Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit join Steyn as part of the 13-man rehabilitation and conditioning squad.
Despite injury doubts over a number of key personnel, including outside-half Pat Lambie, number eight Duane Vermeulen, scrum-half Fourie du Preez, and centre Jean de Villiers, Meyer believes the Springboks are well-prepared for the season that begins with a non-cap match against a World XV.
“It’s a long list of injured players but all of them are in the selection frame and we’d like to work with them to assist with their rehabilitation,” Meyer said in a statement released by the South African Rugby Union.
“Some of them are close to full fitness and they will start training as soon as possible.
“We’ll assess and manage all the injured players individually with their return to play in mind and will do what is the best for the player and the team, even if it means that some of them play for their clubs or provinces if deemed necessary by our medical team and in consultation with their unions.
“The next five matches, before we finalise the squad for the Rugby World Cup, will be very important as we want to ensure the right 31 players are on the plane to England on September 11.
“We have done a lot of planning and research and are well-prepared for the season.
“We’ll use the matches against the World XV, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to fine tune where necessary, but the next two months also provide the players with an opportunity to put themselves in contention to make the World Cup squad.”
South Africa will begin their three-match Rugby Championship campaign against Australia in Brisbane on Sunday 18 July before returning home to face defending champions New Zealand in Johannesburg a week later.
Their final match against Argentina will take place in Durban on Saturday 8 August before they head to Buenos Aires to take on the Pumas again in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match a week later before they name their final 31-man squad and head to England.
The uncapped players in the squad are Stormers hooker Scarra Ntubeni, Bordeaux-bound prop Steven Kitshoff, Stormers prop Vincent Koch, Bulls scrum-half Rudy Paige, Lions scrum-half Faf de Klerk, Bulls full-back Jesse Kriel, Lions lock Franco Mostert and Lions centre Lionel Mapoe.
The squad also features a number of veterans, including centurions Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana, while 72-times capped Fourie was convinced to come out of international retirement for another season of Test rugby.
Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and Leinster full-back Zane Kirchner both make the squad, as does Bath back-row flanker Francois Louw and Saracens hooker Schalk Brits.
South Africa squad (49):
Forwards (22): Willem Alberts (Cell C Sharks), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Schalk Burger (DHL Stormers/Suntory Sungoliath), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (Montpellier), Jannie du Plessis (Montpellier), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux), Vincent Koch (Stormers), Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Francois Louw (Bath), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Victor Matfield, Oupa Mohoje (Cheetahs), Franco Mostert (Lions),
Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Scarra Ntubeni (Stormers), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Bulls), Heinke van der Merwe (Stade Français), Marcel van der Merwe (Bulls), Warren Whiteley (Lions).
Backs (14): Damian De Allende (Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Lions), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Bryan Habana (Toulon), Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs), Zane Kirchner (Leinster), Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Willie le Roux (Sharks), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Rudy Paige (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Handre Pollard (Bulls), Morne Steyn (Stade Français).
Forwards (5): Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs/NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes), Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks), Coenie Oosthuizen (Sharks), Duane Vermeulen (Toulon).
Backs (8): Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Fourie du Preez (Suntory Sungoliath), Jaque Fourie (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers), Pat Lambie (Sharks), Lionel Mapoe (Lions), Cobus Reinach (Sharks), Jan Serfontein (Bulls), Frans Steyn (Sharks).