Allister Coetzee has named a new-look Springbok squad, including nine uncapped players, for the Test series against Ireland, featuring three Tests in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
The uncapped players who have forced their way into the Springbok squad are Garth April (fly-half), Ruan Combrinck (wing), Faf de Klerk (scrum-half), Nic Groom (scrum-half), Steven Kitshoff (prop), Jaco Kriel (flanker), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (flanker) and Scarra Ntubeni (hooker).
Coetzee picked 17 forwards and 14 backs to report for duty on Sunday afternoon for the start of a two week-long preparation camp in Stellenbosch and Cape Town. The squad will gather in Stellenbosch for the first week, before they break for two days and then reassemble on Sunday, June 5 in Cape Town.
Coetzee said he was excited and looking forward to start working with his squad.
“The announcement of the squad, while hugely challenging, is a highlight of my career and a result of a lot of hard work and a huge amount of planning since my appointment,” said Coetzee.
“The selection of this squad was based on rewarding form and exposing young and upcoming local players to the Springboks, which is why priority was given to locally based players. We have many experienced players still available for selection, but we just felt that the time was right to look at the next generation.
“Our depth was obviously tested in certain positions, but this also created opportunities for new players, who have found their feet at Super Rugby level, and to make the step up to the Springboks.
“I was appointed to win Test matches and I believe we have picked the best possible, available squad to do that. During my recent visits to the various franchises, I witnessed an unbelievable desire and passion from our players to play for South Africa, which was really heartening.
“We will now start with our preparations in earnest in Stellenbosch so that we can be ready for Ireland in Cape Town in two weeks’ time.”
Coetzee did not name a team captain and said he wanted to work with the squad before making a decision in the week of the first Test.
“We have a number of captaincy candidates to consider and I will announce the name of the captain when we name the team to face Ireland in Cape Town in a few days’ time,” said the Bok coach.
Several players were not available for selection for the Springbok or SA ‘A’ squads because of injuries or Springbok Sevens commitments.
They are JC Janse van Rensburg, Sti Sithole, Marcell Coetzee, CJ Velleman, Chris Cloete, Thembelani Bholi, Schalk Burger, Cobus Reinach, Jano Vermaak, Elgar Watts, Robert du Preez, Kurt Coleman, Handré Pollard, Harold Vorster, Cornal Hendricks, Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Jaco van der Walt (all injuries or illness), as well as Francois Hougaard, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh, Seabelo Senatla, Cheslin Kolbe, Warrick Gelant and Siviwe Soyizwapi (all Springbok Sevens).
Furthermore, experienced scrum-half Ruan Pienaar informed Coetzee that he is not available for selection for the June Tests.
“We were considering all the players on this list carefully but they are unfortunately not available. We’ve also had good discussions with Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell and I support them fully in their preparations for the Olympic Games in August even though some of those players were real contenders for inclusion in the Springbok squad,” added Coetzee.
Coetzee added that that four players not included in the Springboks’ match-23 for the first two Tests, will be released to the SA ‘A’ squad for their matches against the England Saxons.
The three Tests between the Springboks and Ireland will take place on June 11 at Newlands in Cape Town, on June 18 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg and on June 25 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa squad to face Ireland
Forwards: Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni, Trevor Nyakane, Julian Redelinghuys, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley
Backs: Garth April, Ruan Combrinck, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Nic Groom, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein