Boks turn to Paige for RWC

Date published: August 28 2015

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South Africa have announced their 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, with scrum-half Rudy Paige a surprise inclusion ahead of Cobus Reinach.

Paige, who has yet to receive a Test cap, is preferred over the Sharks back and joins Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar as the Boks' number nine options.

Three Test centurions, Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers, have been included in the squad that will travel to England next month.

De Villiers will captain the Springboks at the global rugby showpiece and Matfield is vice-captain, with Schalk Burger providing captaincy back-up.

Matfield and Burger will take part in their fourth Rugby World Cup, while De Villiers, Habana, JP Pietersen, Pienaar, Du Preez, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis will play in their third. Six players who featured in 2011, are back for their second tournament.

Sixteen members of the 31-man squad, 12 of whom made their Test debut under Heyneke Meyer since 2012, will have their first taste of Rugby World Cup action.

One uncapped player was included in Paige, who was first selected to tour with the Springboks last November.

The average age of the selected players is a little over 26 and the combined number of caps in the squad is 1,297.

Springbok coach Meyer said it was very tough to select the final squad from the wider training group that had been together for the last two months.

"Every single player in our wider group worked incredibly hard and to cut the squad to 31 was probably the most difficult selection I've faced in my coaching career," said Meyer.

"In the end, the selectors decided the 31 players named were the best we have at the moment but that is not to say any of the others won't have a role to play, with injuries a reality in our game.

"Because of the size of the squad, we also had to give more consideration to utility players, who can move around between positions, such as Schalk Brits and Pieter-Steph du Toit, both of whom can play in the back-row, as well as Coenie Oosthuizen, who can pack down on both sides of the front row.

"A number of our backs, such as JP, Ruan, Pat Lambie, Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Lwazi Mvovo and Zane Kirchner, are all comfortable to play in more than one position.

"I think the squad has a great balance between youth and experience while keeping together the core of the team that did the country proud in the last few years. We also have a number of players who know what it takes to win a World Cup and their knowledge will be very valuable.

"We're going to England with the hopes of a nation on our shoulders and we would really like to make our country proud, but we're under no illusions about how tough it will be.

"The gap between all the nations playing in the tournament has shrunk over the years and this will probably be the closest World Cup yet. But the players have really worked very hard over the last two months and by time we get to Eastbourne for our first match, we'll hopefully be firing on all cylinders."

Meyer said that although a number of players currently recovering from injuries were selected, every player in the squad is expected to be fit for the Springboks' opening match of the Rugby World Cup, on 19 September against Japan.

"The best medical scenarios were taken into consideration with the selection process. Our medical team have worked incredibly hard with these players and we’re confident they will be ready to be considered to play Japan," he added.

"Although they have not been able to train fully with the rest of the squad at times, they have really worked hard on their fitness and all of them are incredibly fit, some of them in the best shape of their lives."

Springbok World Cup squad:

Forwards (17):

Hookers: Schalk Brits, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss
Props: Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen
Locks: Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (vc)
Loose forwards: Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen

Backs (14):

Scrum-halves: Fourie du Preez, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar
Fly-halves: Pat Lambie, Handrè Pollard, Morné Steyn
Centres: Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel
Outside backs: Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen

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