Springbok coach Allister Coetzee last Tuesday named his 31-man squad to do battle with the French in a three-match Test series, scheduled to kick-off in June.
Coetzee unsurprisingly announced 29-year-old Lions captain Warren Whiteley as his skipper for the France series and beyond, as he looks to build a side capable of challenging for the Rugby World Cup title in three years’ time. Whiteley is set to become the 58th Springbok captain.
The squad, which includes seven uncapped players, will meet up in Plettenberg Bay this week ahead of the first Test on 10 June.
The uncapped brigade includes the likes of Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka – all of whom have performed admirably for their franchises in Super Rugby this year.
Lukhanyo Am was initially named in the squad, which would have brought the number of potential debutants to eight, but was a late injury withdrawal. Lionel Mapoe, who was originally named in the South Africa A squad to face the French Barbarians, was called up as his replacement.
Montpellier centre, Frans Steyn, is one of four overseas-based players to make the cut. Steyn, who last played international rugby in 2012, is joined by the likes of Toulon captain Duane Vermeulen, Worcester Warriors scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, and Stormers-bound Bordeaux prop Steven Kitshoff.
There was also room for an experienced Bok contingent of Jan Serfontein, Coenie Oostuizen, Oupa Mohoje and Chiliboy Ralepelle. Serfontein missed the entire 2016 Test season through injury, while Oosthuizen, Mohoje (both one-year) and Ralepelle (four-years) make respective returns to the squad after spending time in the international wilderness.
Along with this announcement, a 26-man SA “A” squad was named to face the French Barbarians in two-matches this June. Lions coach Johan Ackerman, who took charge of the SA “A” against the England Saxons last year, again assumes command.
Five Springboks have been drafted into the squad, including Ruan Combrinck, Juan de Jongh, Trevor Nyakane, Uzair Cassiem and Francois Venter.
After an injury to Jambo Ulengo, 2016 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Seabelo Senatla, was called up as a replacement. Jean-Luc du Preez, who was originally named in the SA “A” squad, was later included in the senior Springbok squad as loose-forward cover.
Four Southern Kings players have been included in the squad, namely Makazole Mapimpi, Chris Cloete, Andisa Ntsila and Lionel Cronje.
The SA “A” side first get underway on 16 June, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
The following players were not considered for selection to either squad due to injury: Lukhanyo Am, Marcell Coetzee, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Robert du Preez, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Patrick Lambie, Nico Lee, Francois Louw, Howard Mnisi, Handre Pollard, Julian Redelinghuys, Roelof Smit, Jamba Ulengo and Leolin Zas.
Forwards – Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Ruan Dreyer, Jean-Luc du Preez, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Lizo Gqoboka, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley (captain).
Backs – Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Damian de Allende, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Lionel Mapoe, Rudy Paige, Raymond Rhule, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Frans Steyn.
SA “A” Squad:
Forwards – Ruan Botha, Uzair Cassiem, Chris Cloete, Thomas du Toit, Andries Ferreira, Jason Jenkins, Wilco Louw, Franco Marais, Ox Nche, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Andisa Ntsila, Trevor Nyakane, Ramone Samuels.
Backs – Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Cronje, Juan de Jongh, Dewaldt Duvenage, Warrick Gelant, Makazole Mapimpi, Seabelo Senatla, Francois Venter, Jano Vermaak, Harold Vorster, Fred Zeilinga.