South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has named a 32-man squad that includes the uncapped Salmaan Moerat as they prepare for their year-end internationals.
The former SA Schools and Junior Springbok captain earns his first call-up to the South Africa senior squad ahead of fixtures against Wales in Cardiff (6 November), Scotland in Edinburgh (13 November) and England in London (20 November).
Moerat is the only newcomer in Nienaber’s squad that featured in the British & Irish Lions series and Rugby Championship and he will join forces with Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert and Marvin Orie in a strong group of locks.
Two uncapped players in squad
The only other uncapped player in the squad is scrum-half Grant Williams, who travelled to Australia with the Springboks for the Rugby Championship.
The main injury-enforced omissions from Nienaber’s squad are Faf de Klerk (hip flexor), Cheslin Kolbe (knee), Frans Malherbe (neck) and RG Snyman (knee).
Other players not considered for selection include Pieter-Steph du Toit and Rynhardt Elstadt, who are recovering from shoulder and an ankle injury respectively.
The squad consist of 18 forwards and 14 backs.
“This tour is going to be exciting yet challenging,” said Nienaber.
“The core group of players who played a key role in the series against the British & Irish Lions, as well as the Castle Lager Rugby Championship will remain together as we build consistency and continuity in our squad with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“We had to travel to Australia with an expanded squad due the strict COVID-19 protocols in the country, but with the easing of travel restrictions to Europe and the UK, we were able to revert to a more manageable touring squad.
“We are two years out from the Rugby World Cup in France, and we have close to 20 Test matches before we start our defence of the title, so every match will count in terms of building confidence and consistency as a group.
“A number of players have put up their hands in the Carling Currie Cup and the first four rounds of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, which is great for our local game, and while they remain on our radar, we’ve decided to stick with the core of our 2021 squad for this tour.”
Commenting on the loss of a few players due to injury, Nienaber said: “It’s always unfortunate to lose players due to injury, but we have good depth in our squad, and these are established players who have proven themselves at the highest level.”
Nienaber was delighted to call up Moerat, who has been serving as the Stormers co-captain on their United Rugby Championship tour in recent weeks and said the lock’s experience and leadership qualities would be valuable as he makes the step up to the Springbok team.
“Salmaan has established himself as a talented lock and captain since his younger days in our junior structures and he has continued to show his class at senior level for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province,” said Nienaber.
“His call-up is well earned, and we are looking forward to witnessing what he adds to the squad. He is also familiar with most of the players in the squad having either played with them or against them, so we have no doubt he will slot in with ease.”
Nienaber expected tough competition on the tour and said: “We have built a good base this season after our series victory against the British & Irish Lions and victories against the All Blacks, Argentina and Georgia, although we were disappointed that the results did not go our way in the other three Tests in Australia (in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship).
“Obviously this will be a completely different challenge to that we faced in South Africa and Australia earlier this year with the vastly different conditions and in terms of the teams we will face, but fortunately we got a taste of what to expect from the northern hemisphere sides in the Castle Lager Lions Series.
“England is in fourth place on the world rankings, and Scotland and Wales are in seventh and ninth place respectively, and they are all top-class teams that will want to make a strong statement in front of their home crowds, so we need to get into the swing of things quickly when we assemble.”
The Springboks will depart for a one-week training camp in France on Friday before making the journey to Cardiff for their opening Test.
Springbok squad for Autumn Nations Series
Forwards: Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Ox Nché, Trevor Nyakane, Joseph Dweba, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Salmaan Moerat, Marvin Orie, Siya Kolisi (c), Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert
Backs: Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Grant Williams, Elton Jantjies, Handré Pollard, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Aphelele Fassi, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Damian Willemse, Frans Steyn