Springboks opt for surprising squad selection
June 2, 2012
Heyneke Meyer's first squad since taking charge of the Springboks is set to spark debate © Getty Images
Scrum-half Fourie du Preez and flanker Heinrich Brussow were the notable omissions from the South Africa squad that will tackle England in a three-Test series later this month.
The 32-man selection boast nine new faces in the form of flankers Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter, locks Eben Etzebeth, Juandré Kruger and Franco van der Merwe, fly-half Elton Jantjies, wing or centre JJ Engelbrecht, prop Coenie Oosthuizen and scrum-half Jano Vermaak.
But there is no place for Du Preez, currently plying his trade with Suntory in Japan, despite widespread reports linking him with the captaincy. Brussow's failure to earn a spot was another surprise but coach Heyneke Meyer will still have a wealth of experience at his disposal with the likes of winger Bryan Habana, centre Jean de Villiers and fly-half Morne Steyn in mix. Ulster playmaker Ruan Pienaar is the only overseas-based player in the 32-man selection.
"We were always looking to start the season with an experienced squad to face England, but injuries to certain players and the non-availability of others have made it difficult," said Meyer, who has had to fill the void left by Test centurions Victor Matfield and John Smit who retired following last year's Rugby World Cup. "What we've lost in experience, we've made up in passion and desire to play for the Springboks.
"We have put together a squad with a nice balance between a number of veterans and players with less experience as we start to build for the rest of the season. Working with these players during our four Planning Camps this season has been great and really made a very difficult selection process a bit easier. There were a few unlucky players that didn't make it and they will get opportunities in future as long as they keep on knocking on the door."
Injuries have also hampered Meyer's selection with flankers Schalk Burger and Juan Smith among those ruled out of contention. Both were considered favourites, alongside Du Preez, to lead the squad following the retirement of long-term skipper Smit, but that honour now looks destined for either De Villiers or No.8 Pierre Spies - at least on a short-term basis.
"The nine uncapped players have all put up their hands during Super Rugby this year and we know they have what it takes to succeed at the highest level," insisted Meyer. "We realise that it is impossible to please everyone when it comes to selecting squads like these, but we would really like to see the entire country stand behind us as we take on England.
Furthermore, six promising players have been added to the Springbok squad for the next three weeks. They are Siya Kolisi (flanker), Arno Botha (No.8), Frans Malherbe (prop), CJ Stander (loose forward), Francois Venter (centre) and Piet van Zyl (scrum-half).
Meyer said: "We feel that these players have what it takes to play for the Springboks and they were close to selection in the final squad. However, these three weeks provide the ideal opportunity to work with them, show them what the Springbok culture is all about and hopefully put them on the right track to play for South Africa sooner rather than later. By doing this now, we will reap the dividends going forward.
"We also rate a number of great players in the South African Under-20 squad, but they were not considered at this stage due to the fact that they are playing in a very important Junior World Championship."
South Africa squad: Willem Alberts, Bjorn Basson, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, JJ Engelbrecht, Eben Etzebeth, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Ryan Kankowski, Zane Kirchner, Juandré Kruger, Werner Kruger, Patrick Lambie, Tendai Mtawarira, Lwazi Mvovo, Wynand Olivier, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Jacques Potgieter, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Pierre Spies, Frans Steyn, Morné Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe, Jano Vermaak
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