THE Springbok selectors have opted for continuity when they named a 30-man squad for the opening two rounds of The Castle Lager Rugby Championship later this month against Argentina.
Only three players who were not part of the Springbok squad which won the Castle Lager Incoming Series in June have been added to the squad.
They are experienced scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who has been selected for the Springboks for the first time since the Rugby World Cup in 2011, Gurthrö Steenkamp (prop) and Duane Vermeulen (No 8), who last played for the Springboks in November 2012.
Du Preez’s club in Japan, Suntory Sungoliath, released him for international duty for parts of The Castle Rugby Championship. He is available for the three Tests in South Africa and has been included in the squad. When Du Preez can’t travel with the Springboks, his place in the squad will be taken by Piet van Zyl.
“We’re very thankful to everyone at SARU and Suntory who made it possible to select Fourie,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Fourie has been out of international rugby for a while and it makes sense to involve him as soon as possible. Piet was part of the squad in June and we know what he can do – he will slot in without any problems when necessary.”
Vermeulen, who has shaken off a knee injury which kept him out of the June Tests, and the experienced Steenkamp both return to the squad after playing a vital role in the Springboks’ unbeaten tour to Ireland, Scotland and England last year.
“It’s great to have Duane back after he played such an important role for us at the end of last season,” said Meyer.
“It will also be good to see Gurthrö back in the mix. Along with Fourie, they boast 102 Tests worth of experience between the two of them, have been part of very successful teams before and will be able to share a lot of knowledge with the younger players around them.
“We’ve managed to keep a lot of continuity between this squad of 30 players and the squad that did duty during the Castle Lager Incoming Series.
“As I’ve said before, it’s vitally important for the younger players in the set-up to get more experienced and increase their Test caps, but this will be a very tough Championship and we will have to be at our very best.
“Argentina showed last year what they can do and while we are mindful of the threat they pose, our focus will be on building on the good things we achieved in June and improving in areas where we were not satisfied.”
The Springboks will open their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at the FNB Stadium in Soweto as part of the Nelson Mandela Sport & Culture Day celebrations on 17 August. The following day they fly to South America where they will face Los Pumas in Mendoza on 24 August.
The two Australasian Tests of the competition take place on 7 September in Brisbane (against Australia) and on 14 September in Auckland (against New Zealand).
The final two home Tests are scheduled for 28 September in Cape Town (against Australia) and 5 October in Johannesburg (against New Zealand).
Only locally-based players and Ruan Pienaar, who is currently on extended leave in South Africa and was granted permission to take part in the camp by his province in Ireland, will take part in the team’s preparations next week in Johannesburg. The full squad will get together for training from August 12.
Injured players who have been part of the squad in the last two seasons, but were not considered, are Frans Malherbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Arno Botha, Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Jaco Taute and Frans Steyn.
The Springbok squad for The Castle Lager Rugby Championship 2013:
Willem Alberts (Loose forward), 21 Test caps
Bjorn Basson (Wing), 9
Marcell Coetzee (Loose forward), 13
Juan de Jongh (Centre), 14
Jean de Villiers (captain, Centre), 87
Bismarck du Plessis (Hooker), 48
Jannie du Plessis (Prop), 45
Fourie du Preez (Scrumhalf), 62
JJ Engelbrecht (Centre / Wing), 4
Eben Etzebeth (Lock), 14
Bryan Habana (Wing), 86
Zane Kirchner (Fullback), 24
Siya Kolisi (Loose forward), 2
Juandré Kruger (Lock), 11
Pat Lambie (Flyhalf / Fullback), 23
Willie le Roux (Fullback / Wing), 3
Francois Louw (Loose forward), 19
Tendai Mtawarira (Prop), 44
Trevor Nyakane (Prop), 3
Coenie Oosthuizen (Prop), 5
Ruan Pienaar (Scrumhalf), 66
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Hooker), 22
Jan Serfontein (Centre), 3
Gurthrö Steenkamp (Prop), 40
Morné Steyn (Flyhalf), 45
Adriaan Strauss (Hooker), 24
Flip van der Merwe (Lock), 26
Franco van der Merwe (Lock), 0
Jano Vermaak (Scrumhalf), 1
Duane Vermeulen (No 8), 7