On Monday Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli was denied his most lethal attacking weapon for the June 7 Test against Scotland in Durban when Sharks utility back Brent Russell was ruled out with a shoulder injury.

Lawrence Sephaka, Marius Joubert, Quinton Davids and Selborne Boome, however, are all eligible for the 24-man squad he will announce on Tuesday night.

Straeuli's first squad of the year will most likely make provision for a heavy pack, an established halfback combination in Joost van der Westhuizen and Louis Koen, as well as a beefy centre pairing.

Russell's absence may well have opened the door for Butch James, though fullback probable Jaco van der Westhuyzen can double as flyhalf cover for Koen, and Conrad Jantjes and Ricardo Loubscher also have strong claims.

With Bob Skinstad, Corne Krige and John Smit all ruled out through injury, it stands to reason that Van der Westhuizen will initially captain the team. Krige, however, is expected to be named as World Cup captain.

Luke Watson, the exciting Sharks openside-flank prospect, is expected to crack the nod despite not being considered good enough by Jake White to make the South Africa under-21 team.

Watson, who combined a high tackle count with good skills in the Super 12, is the likely cover for Krige and could be joined in a loose trio with Sharks skipper Shaun Sowerby and outstanding young Bull Pedrie Wannenburg.

Should Watson make his debut against the Scots, he will become the youngest Springbok since Freddy Turner, who was 19 years and 112 days old when he played for South Africa against Australia in 1933. Watson was born on October 26, 1983.

Another newcomer could be former Bolander Ashwin Willemse, who was in good form on the Cats wing early in the Super 12. However, there is some competition from veteran Deon Kayser, who can also double as a centre.

Regarding the midfield, the name of Trevor Halstead is being heavily linked, despite him playing sparingly for the Sharks in the Super 12. He has not been involved with the Springboks since their defeat to England at Twickenham under Harry Viljoen at the end of 2001.

His critics dismiss him as a one-dimensional player but, at 102kg, he offers the physical presence required to get his team over the gain line.

"I definitely think I offer more than that," said Halstead. "Like you said, coaches like me to take the ball up and get on the front foot. But I've said it before: I feel I can be used for a more expansive game as well.

"I was extremely disappointed in this year's Super 12. It's not about the way I played. For the first few games, I hadn't played in 13 months. Then, unfortunately, I hurt a hamstring and took two weeks to recover. Then (Sharks coach) Kevin Putt was not keen to change the side."

Halstead, nevertheless, featured for a couple of halves and believe he will be match fit to take on the Scots if required.

"I don't take notice of the talk or what is written in newspapers. I'll wait until I hear from the coach," said Halstead, who was outstanding in the Sharks' No 12 jumper under Straeuli in 2001.

His provincial teammate, Andre Snyman, certainly deserves a call-up after a fine season, while they are likely to be backed up by Gcobani Bobo.

But don't rule out Joubert, whose devastating breaks towards the end of the Super 12, after his return from a shoulder injury, would also have had the selectors thinking, especially as there is a growing school of thought that he can be deployed on the wing.

Expect a welcome return, too, for Pieter Rossouw, who is the man most likely to provide the leadership in the back-three combination.

He may well be only one of a number of Stormers in the team, with the other contenders being tighthead prop Cobus Visagie, lock Davids and Joubert. Injury, of course, has sidelined the likes of Krige, Werner Greeff, Breyton Paulse and Robbie Fleck.

The front row will be interesting. Speculation is rife that Richard Bands, who was imposing for the Bulls at tighthead prop, will be deployed as a hooker. This could allow for Christo Bezuidenhout to come into the mix but, with the Bulls loosehead into his thirties, that would be a questionable investment.

Stormers coach Gert Smal and Bulls boss Rudy Joubert are expected to join Straeuli's backroom staff.


Jaco van der Westhuyzen

Ashwin Willemse

Gcobani Bobo

Trevor Halstead

Pieter Rossouw

Louis Koen

Joost van der Westhuizen

Shaun Sowerby

Pedrie Wannenburg

Luke Watson

Victor Matfield

Geo Cronje

Cobus Visagie

Danie Coetzee

Hanyani Shimange

Robbie Kempson

Lawrence Sephaka

Richard Bands

Quinton Davids

Wikus van Heerden

Bolla Conradie

Craig Davidson

Andre Snyman

Butch James.