4 August 2014
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has been included in the South African squad for the four-nation Castle Lager Rugby Championship after recovering from a knee injury. There are two newcomers, Cobus Reinach and Damian de Allende, in the 30-man squad named on the weekend.
A number of other players have also returned from injury, including Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth and Pat Lambie.
“It’s great to have Jean back to lead the side in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement.
“Victor Matfield [as captain] and Jan Serfontein [at centre] both did superbly well in his absence, but he is our captain and I’m sure he will slot back into the side without any difficulty. The same goes for Eben, Frans and Patrick, all of whom have been part of the squad before.
“We will medically assess all the players in the squad in Johannesburg next week. This will not only include the players who missed the June tests because of injury, but also someone such as Mtawarira, who has been out of action for a while. We will deal with every player and his needs individually.”
Four players who made their debuts in June – Cornal Hendricks, Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, Lood de Jager and Handre Pollard – kept their places in the Springbok squad.
“These players have impressed from the first minute they joined us. This is a step up for all of them, but that is the kind of challenge we thrive on,” Meyer commented.
“It’s never easy cutting a squad down in size and we’re fortunate that we have a number of experienced players who will be on stand-by should their services be needed,” he added.
The Castle Lager Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday, 16 August, when Australia host New Zealand in Sydney and the Springboks tackle Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Looking ahead, Meyer said: “We’ve been steadily improving over the past two years, but another step-up is needed this season.
“It’s been a theme for us since the start of the season and we must simply keep on accelerating in the coming two months.
“We’ve set ourselves some goals for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and we’ll have to be focused and switched on from the moment we get together in Johannesburg.
“Winning matches and scoring tries remain foremost in our minds. During the four matches in June, we scored 23 tries, which we were very happy with. I think we can be proud of the rugby we played against Wales and Scotland, but that is in the past now and we have a new competition to get ready for.
“There are many good things we can build on from the June series, but also some things we need to work on if we’re going to be competitive in the coming months. It’s a challenge we relish, though, and I can’t wait to get going.”
Not considered for selection
Japan-based JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger were not considered for selection as they have to report for duty with their clubs.
“Obviously the squad can change during the course of the Rugby Championship and although JP and Schalk were not considered at this stage, they could still feature later in the competition,” Meyer said.
A number of player, who have featured for the Springboks since 2013 were not considered for selection because of injuries, including Pieter-Steph du Toit, Flip van der Merwe, Pierre Spies, Fourie Jaque Fourie and Fourie du Preez.
Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Damian De Allende, Lodewyk de Jager, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Lwazi Mvovo, Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Pienaar, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Gurthro Steenkamp, Morne Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen