CAPE TOWN – With the Super Rugby tournament done and dusted, the focus now shifts to the Springboks as the Rugby Championships is set to kick off next weekend.
In the opening weekend, South Africa will host Argentina at Kings Park in Durban while Australia will take on New Zealand at Stadium Australia on Saturday, 18 August.
The Springboks are currently in camp in Stellenbosch and on Monday, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus named an extended squad for the Rugby Championship. The bulk of the group have been training in Stellenbosch for a few weeks, and will be joined by the Lions contingent on Wednesday.
The men from Johannesburg returned to South Africa on Monday after their Super Rugby final appearance on Saturday against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Erasmus named SA Under-20 flyhalf Damian Willemse as one of three uncapped players in the Springbok squad. He joins loose forwards Cyle Brink and Marco van Staden from the Lions and Bulls respectively.
Malcolm Marx (hooker), Warren Whiteley (No 8), Ross Cronje (scrumhalf) and Lionel Mapoe (centre) also return to the Springbok fold for the first time this season. Mapoe and Cronje both missed the mid-year Tests because of injury.
Also returning to the Springbok squad are Francois Louw, from English club side Bath and Lwazi Mvovo (outside back).
Erasmus confirmed that Siya Kolisi will continue to lead the Springboks during the Rugby Championship campaign.
On Monday Springbok fans were able to watch the team at an open training session at the home of Tygerberg rugby club, Florida Park in Ravensmead.
Despite the inclement weather, the main stand at Florida Park – the only covered area at the ground - was already packed to the rafters when the Springboks arrived in their green and gold branded bus.
As the players took to the field, the heavens opened… but on the pitch, it was business as usual as Erasmus and the coaching team took the Boks through their paces.
Fans in Cape Town will have one more opportunity to watch the Springboks training, at a second open session at the Belhar rugby club on Thursday, 9 August at 10am.
The Springbok squad will continue with preparations in Cape Town until Friday. Following a two-day break, the squad will then reassemble in Durban next Sunday to continue with their build-up towards the match against Argentina at Kings Park.
The two sides meet again a week later in Mendoza.