Bakkies Botha will be joined by three more South African Test players in the confirmed World XV squad for their match on Saturday, July 11 at Newlands in Cape Town against the Springboks.
The World XV squad boasts a combined total of 460 Test caps and represents six nations.
Rugby World Cup winning forwards Botha (Toulon) and Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse) will be joined by the Blue Bulls’ JJ Engelbrecht and Flip van der Merwe, as well as former Sharks hooker Craig Burden (Toulon), a Springbok tourist in 2012, in the 23-man squad which will be coached by former Wallaby and Crusaders mentor Robbie Deans.
The match will be the Springboks’ first of the 2015 season before a shortened Rugby Championship. It will be a stern test for Heyneke Meyer’s team as they start their preparations for the Rugby World Cup later this year in England.
The inclusion of players such as Botha, van der Merwe and Steenkamp, who appeared for the Boks against the World XV a year ago, will mean Meyer’s team will have their work cut out as their opponents are familiar with South Africa’s calls, plays and structures.
Experienced All Blacks Ali Williams and Carl Hayman will join Botha, Steenkamp, Burden and van der Merwe in a powerful pack, that also includes 2014 European Player of the Year Steffon Armitage in the back row and England-qualified prop Petrus du Plessis.
In the backline, Engelbrecht will link up with Wallabies Luke Burgess and Lachie Turner, as well as France’s Maxime Mermoz and Maxime Machenaud.
In total, 10 members of the squad are from Toulon, who completed a hat-trick of European Cup victories when they beat Clermont 24-18 in last month’s final.
Deans, who will share the coaching duties with France’s Bernard Laporte, wants to give Meyer’s men a real examination before they take on the Wallabies in Brisbane the following week.
“As a coach you relish the chance to work with talented players and this World XV has the experience and quality to come together quickly and really test South Africa,” said Deans.
“Toulon have been a dominant force in Europe for the last three years and the South African contingent led by Bakkies Botha will want to be at least competitive against all their former teammates.
“We know we will need to match the physicality and intensity as well as the skill levels of one of the leading World Cup contenders and it’s a great challenge for myself, Bernard Laporte and the players to work on.”
The Springboks were made to work hard early on in their match against the World XV last year, but cut loose in the second half when they turned a slim 18-13 half-time lead into a victory by 47-13 in front of more than 30,000 spectators at DHL Newlands.
World XV squad
Delon Armitage, Luke Burgess, JJ Engelbrecht, Mike Harris, Maxime Machenaud, Maxime Mermoz, David Smith, Tom Taylor, Lachlan Turner, Rudi Wulf
Steffon Armitage, Bakkies Botha, Craig Burden, Petrus du Plessis, Carl Hayman, Louis-Benoit Madaule, Alexandre Menini, David Roumieu, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Jordan Taufua, Flip van der Merwe, Luke Whitelock, Ali Williams