Warren Whiteley has been named the 58th Springbok captain and will get his first opportunity to lead the team when a much-changed squad, which includes eight uncapped players, gets together for the Castle Lager Incoming Series against France at a training camp in Plettenberg Bay next week.
The national selectors also recalled six experienced players to the squad. They are Rugby World Cup winner Frans Steyn, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Duane Vermeulen, Coenie Oosthuizen and Chiliboy Ralepelle. They have more than 200 Test caps of experience between them.
Of the eight uncapped players in the squad, six are backs and two play in the forwards. They are Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka.
Four of these, Rhule, Cronje, Dreyer and Gqoboka have previously toured with the Boks, but are yet to play in a Test match for South Africa.
The squad, which consists of 18 forwards and 13 backs, was announced by SA Rugby President Mr Mark Alexander at the SuperSport Studios in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The Springboks will face France on Saturday 10 June at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, followed by Tests at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban (17 June) and Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg (24 June).
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee also announced the appointment of Whiteley as Springbok captain for the forthcoming June internationals. The Emirates Lions No 8 succeeds Adriaan Strauss, who retired from Test rugby at the end of last season.
The 31-man Springbok squad will assemble on Monday, 29 May for a week-long camp in Plettenberg Bay before moving camp to Pretoria where they will fine-tune final preparations for the first Test.Steyn, who plays for French side Montpellier and was a member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning squad, last featured in a Springbok Test in 2012, while Ralepelle is back in the Bok squad after four years – his last Test was in 2013.
Serfontein was injured and missed the entire 2016 season, while Oosthuizen, who played in 23 Tests between 2012 and 2015, is also back in the squad having fully recovered from his injuries.
Vermeulen featured in only two Tests in 2016 before suffering an injury during the home series against Ireland, while Hougaard returns after missing the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to the United Kingdom and Italy at the end of 2016 due to injury.
Coetzee said he was satisfied with the composition of the group, which has a good balance of promising newcomers and experienced players. He also explained the decision to reward Whiteley with the captaincy.
“Warren has been one of the outstanding leaders in South African rugby for many years,” said Coetzee.
“He is respected by his team-mates and opposition alike and has a lot of experience when it comes to captaincy, having led the Emirates Lions with great authority for many seasons. He is resilient, copes well under pressure and makes good decisions.
“The national selectors have rewarded form and we are looking forward to face the French team next month. I am confident the players will do the jersey and our country proud,” said Coetzee.
“A Lot of hard work has been done since the start of the season to make sure we improve as a team. The collaboration and spirit showed at the various indabas and other gatherings are proof that we are moving in the right direction.
“The three preseason training camps gave us the chance to have a close look at a number of players, especially those who haven’t been involved with the Springboks previously. We were also kept abreast of the form and the progress of the overseas-based group of players,” added Coetzee.
The third training camp finished in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning, with Coetzee emphasising the importance of the training camps.
“I want to especially thank the franchise and conditioning coaches for their contribution towards the success of the training camps,” according to the Bok coach.
Flyhalf Pat Lambie is still symptomatic following his concussion. After discussions with the player and the medical teams of both the Springboks and the Cell C Sharks, it was decided not to consider him for selection for the Springbok squad.
Apart from Lambie, the following players were not considered for Springbok and SA ‘A’ selection because of injury, or as stated otherwise: JC van Rensburg (prop, DHL Stormers), Julian Redelinghuys (prop, Emirates Lions), Francois Louw (flank, Bath, UK), Roelof Smit (flank Vodacom Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (flank, Ulster, Ireland), Handré Pollard (flyhalf, Vodacom Bulls), Jean-Luc du Plessis (flyhalf, DHL Stormers), Kurt Coleman (flyhalf, DHL Stormers), Robert du Preez (flyhalf, DHL Stormers), Howard Mnisi (centre, Emirates Lions), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (centre, Emirates Lions), Nico Lee (centre, Toyota Cheetahs), Leolin Zas (wing, DHL Stormers), Curwin Bosch (flyhalf, Cell C Sharks, Junior Springboks), André Esterhuizen (centre, Cell C Sharks, suspended) and RG Snyman (lock, Vodacom Bulls, suspended).
The Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Incoming Series (in alphabetical order):
Lood de Jager (lock), Vodacom Bulls – 28 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock), DHL Stormers – 20 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Ruan Dreyer (prop), Emirates Lions – uncapped
Eben Etzebeth (lock), DHL Stormers – 54 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Steven Kitshoff (prop), Bordeaux Bègles (France) – 10 caps, 0 points
Siya Kolisi (flank), DHL Stormers – 16 caps, 0 points
Jaco Kriel (loose forward), Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 0 points
Frans Malherbe (prop), DHL Stormers – 15 caps, 0 points
Malcolm Marx (hooker), Emirates Lions – 2 caps, 0 points
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), DHL Stormers – 5 caps; 0 points
Oupa Mohoje (loose forward), Toyota Cheetahs – 15 tests, 0 points
Franco Mostert (lock), Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 0 points
Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Cell C Sharks – 87 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Vodacom Bulls – uncapped
Coenie Oosthuizen (prop), Cell C Sharks – 23 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker), Cell C Sharks – 22 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Duane Vermeulen (loose forward), Toulon (France) – 37 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Warren Whiteley (captain, loose forward), Emirates Lions – 15 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Lukhanyo Am (centre), Cell C Sharks – uncapped
Andries Coetzee (fullback) Emirates Lions – uncapped
Ross Cronje (scrumhalf), Emirates Lions – uncapped
Damian de Allende (centre), DHL Stormers – 22 Caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf), Worcester (England) – 39 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
Elton Jantjies (flyhalf), Emirates Lions – 11 caps, 78 points (12 conversions, 18 penalties)
Jesse Kriel (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 17 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Dillyn Leyds (wing/utility back), DHL Stormers – uncapped
Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), Vodacom Bulls – 7 caps, 0 points
Raymond Rhule (wing) Toyota Cheetahs – uncapped
Jan Serfontein (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 26 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Courtnall Skosan (wing), Emirates Lions – uncapped
Frans Steyn (flyhalf/centre), Montpellier (France) – 53 caps, 132 points (10 tries, 5 conversions, 21 penalties, 3 drop goals)