Experience, youth in Springbok squad

29 October 2013

Three 2007 Rugby World Cup winners were recalled and four new caps named when a 32-man Springbok squad for South Africa’s end-of-year tour of the northern hemisphere was announced on Thursday.

Wing JP Pietersen (48 caps), lock Bakkies Botha (76 caps) and Jaque Fourie (69 caps), who have been playing their trade abroad, will add plenty of experience to the Springbok squad.

Pietersen is in the squad for the first time this year, following a move to Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights, while Botha, who plays for Toulon, and Fourie, who plays for Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers, will turn out in the green and gold for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

‘World-class players’

“It will be great to have Bakkies, Jaque and JP in the squad. All of them are really excited to play for the Springboks again. They have heaps of experience and are world-class players,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement.

The new caps include Siyabonga “Scarra” Ntubeni, who enjoyed a breakout season with Western Province in the recently concluded Absa Currie Cup. He is joined by fellow Province players Frans Malherbe and Louis Schreuder and Natal Sharks’ lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, who turned in a man of the match winning performance in the Currie Cup final.

Gio Aplon, who was part of the squad in June but missed out on the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, is back in favour, while the hugely talented but injury-prone Johan Goosen, who recently returned to action after seven months out injured, was recalled to the team.

Experienced Springboks Schalk Burger and Frans Steyn, who both returned to action recently, missed out on selection.

‘Just-reward’

“Scarra’s inclusion, like that of Gio, is just-reward for continuous great form,” Bok coach Meyer said. “He’s still young and will learn a lot from our two front-line hookers, who both rate among the best in the world, on this tour. I want to expose him to this environment and the Springbok ethos and I’m very excited to work with him.

“Pieter-Steph missed a large part of the season because of injury, but has been exceptional since his return to the playing field last month, while we’ve always rated Frans very highly and look forward to working with him again.

“And Louis has always been on our radar. He is only 23, fits in with the way we want to play, and was impressive when he worked with us in June. Since then he’s established himself as first-choice at DHL Western Province, starting in nine of their 12 Absa Currie Cup matches, and I believe he will learn a lot on this tour, improving even more.”

Tests

Meyer said the Springboks would like to build on their performances during the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in the tests against Wales (9 November in Cardiff), Scotland (17 November in Edinburgh) and France (23 November in Paris).

“We’ll play in conditions we’ve not yet encountered this year, but we want to keep our positive mind-set on the field and hopefully keep on scoring tries,” said Meyer.

“We’re up for the challenge. I know the players are keen to finish 2013 off on a high.

Six Nations champions

“The Welsh have won the Six Nations the last two seasons. It’s our first test against them since the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and they will be fired up at the Millennium Stadium.

“This year Scotland finished third in the Six Nations and in our two tests against them in the last two seasons, they have been a tough nut to crack. We’re not expecting anything different at Murrayfield this year.

“We finish off against France at the Stade de France, where the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007. But we’ve not beaten Les Bleus in France since 1997 and will have to be sharp and focused for this last Test of a challenging season.”

SPRINGBOK SQUAD

Gio Aplon (17 caps), Willem Alberts (27), Bakkies Botha (76), Marcell Coetzee (14), Jean de Villiers (captain, 93), Bismarck du Plessis (54), Jannie du Plessis (51), Fourie du Preez (65), Pieter-Steph du Toit (0), JJ Engelbrecht (10), Eben Etzebeth (20), Jaque Fourie (69), Johan Goosen (4), Bryan Habana (92), Zane Kirchner (28), Siya Kolisi (8), Patrick Lambie (29), Willie le Roux (9), Francois Louw (25), Frans Malherbe (0), Tendai Mtawarira (50), Scarra Ntubeni (0), Coenie Oosthuizen (11), Ruan Pienaar (71), JP Pietersen (48), Louis Schreuder (0), Jan Serfontein (9), Gurthro Steenkamp (46), Morne Steyn (51), Adriaan Strauss (30), Flip van der Merwe (31), Duane Vermeulen (13)

SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby