CAPE TOWN – The Springboks have been rocked by the forced withdrawal of Tendai Mtawarira for the end-of-year tour to Europe.
Mtawarira, who attended the Sharks’ Currie Cup semi-final win against the Golden Lions on Saturday as a spectator, has been ruled out with an unspecified injury he picked up against the All Blacks in Pretoria a few weeks ago.
That has opened the door for Trevor Nyakane to be a fully fledged member of the Bok touring group, after he was only part of the national set-up for a conditioning programme for the home leg of the Rugby Championship.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus, as expected, brought back Japan-based loose forward Duane Vermeulen, but in a surprise move, Lood de Jager will also be on the trip to the north.
De Jager has not played any rugby since tearing a pectoral muscle in a Super Rugby clash against the Sharks in May.
But Erasmus believes the 25-year-old’s 36 Test caps’ worth of experience will be valuable against England, France, Scotland and Wales.
“It is good to welcome back a player of the calibre of Lood – he will add experience to a position where we already have some very good competition for places,” the Bok boss said.
“Duane, of course, will also bring similar valuable experience to the group.”
The preliminary group of 20 players assembled in Stellenbosch on Sunday for a training camp, while most overseas-based players and those from Currie Cup finalists Western Province and the Sharks will be announced following the final at Newlands next Saturday.
But apart from Vermeulen, there is one other Bok from abroad already included, Japan-based centre André Esterhuizen, while hooker Schalk Brits – who is rumoured to be joining the Stormers next season – is listed as unattached.
Interestingly, lock Franco Mostert was not named, despite the Lions maintaining that he is contracted to them and not Gloucester in England.
“It’s a tough tour and our preparation time is limited, but we have set ourselves some goals.
“And as has been the case the entire season, we would like to see the squad continue to grow as a group and add to our depth with the 2019 Rugby World Cup less than a year away,” said Erasmus.
Here is the preliminary Springbok training group of 20 players invited to the weeklong camp in Stellenbosch, starting today. The camp is in preparations of the Boks' 2018 Castle Lager Outgoing Tours to the UK and France. pic.twitter.com/9bbAV1Rr2U
Preliminary Springbok Squad
Forwards (12): Schalk Brits, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.
Backs (8): Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, André Esterhuizen, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Handré Pollard.