The Springbok selectors have named two squads of 44 players each – including 19 uncapped and a number of currently injured players – for the first two training camps of the season, in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The first camp, in Johannesburg, will run from May 3 to 6 and the second camp is scheduled for Cape Town from May 31 to June 3. The international season starts on July 11 with a match against a World XV in Cape Town.
Of the 19 uncapped players, 16 have been involved with the Springboks before, either as members of touring squads or at training or planning camps since 2012. The only new faces invited are Vincent Koch, Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe.
The other 16 uncapped players invited to one or both of the camps, are Ruan Botha, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques du Plessis, Steven Kitshoff, Lappies Labuschagne, Scarra Ntubeni, Lizo Gqoboka, Bongi Mbonambi, Michael Rhodes, Demetri Catrakilis, Jesse Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Rudy Paige, Kobus van Wyk, Francois Venter and Nic Groom.
"The door to Springbok selection is never closed and by inviting these players we are rewarding great form for their franchises in Vodacom Super Rugby," said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
"The amazing thing is that most of these 19 uncapped players have been involved with us before, but I’m always excited to work with new players.
"This year, players such as Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch and Jesse Kriel, to name but a few, have been in great form in Vodacom Super Rugby and they are certainly knocking on the selection door. The Rugby World Cup squad will only be announced at the end of August and there is still a lot of places we’re undecided on.
"The same goes for a number of more familiar faces, who have recovered from injury and are playing good rugby again. It’s always good to see experienced players back in the frame."
The training squads include key players currently injured, such as Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Pat Lambie and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who have been invited to the camps but will not take part in the field sessions. They will be monitored and their fitness evaluated as the international season is getting closer.
"Injuries are part of the game but I am concerned about them," said Meyer.
"These camps will provide our medical team with the opportunity to evaluate the progress on the injured players as many of them are experienced and established Springboks who will in all probability feature at some stage this season. It also makes sense to involve them now already in our off-field sessions and video sessions."
Players based abroad were not considered for the camps, while their Super Rugby tours means the involvement of players from the Sharks and Bulls will be limited to one camp each. The squads may change subject to further injuries.
The Springbok training squads (44 each):
Johannesburg camp (Sharks on tour) – 3 to 6 May:
Forwards (26): Arno Botha, Ruan Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Robbie Coetzee, Lood de Jager, Jacques du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Dean Greyling, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Lappies Labuschagne, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Trevor Nyakane, Scarra Ntubeni, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss, Marcel van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.
Backs (18): Bjorn Basson, Demetri Catrakilis, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Faf de Klerk, Jean de Villiers, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Rudy Paige, Handré Pollard, Jan Serfontein, Kobus van Wyk, Francois Venter.
Cape Town camp (Bulls on tour) – 31 May to 3 June:
Forwards (27): Willem Alberts, Ruan Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Marcell Coetzee, Robbie Coetzee, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jean Deysel, Eben Etzebeth, Lizo Gqoboka, Ryan Kankowski, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Scarra Ntubeni, Coenie Oosthuizen, Michael Rhodes, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.
Backs (17): Demetri Catrakilis, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Faf de Klerk, Jean de Villiers, Nic Groom, Cornal Hendricks, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Cobus Reinach, Kobus van Wyk, Francois Venter.