New Springbok rugby boss Rassie Erasmus has picked a quite staggering 17 uncapped players in a massive, and largely inexperienced, squad of 43 for next month’s Tests against Wales and England.
The highly anticipated first squad of the year also includes five players who play their rugby in Europe, namely hooker Bismarck du Plessis, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, utility backs Frans Steyn and Willie le Roux, and loose forward Duane Vermeulen.
None of these players is likely to be considered for next Saturday’s one-off Test against Wales in Washington DC as the match falls outside the international Test window.
The 17 newcomers who have yet to turn out for the Boks are: wings Travis Ismaiel, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Makazole Mapimpi and S’bu Nkosi, centre Andre Esterhuizen, flyhalf Rob du Preez, scrumhalves Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl and Cameron Wright, loose forwards Kwagga Smith and Sikumbuzo Notshe, locks Jason Jenkins, Marvin Orie and RG Snyman, props Thomas du Toit, Ox Nche and hooker Akker van der Merwe.
Seven other players have less 10 Test caps or less and are still inexperienced at Test level, namely fullbacks Curiwn Bosch (one Test) and Warrick Gelant (two Tests), centre Lukhanyo Am (one Test), loose-forwards Dan du Preez (three Tests), Jean-Luc du Preez (10 Tests) and Nizaam Carr (five Tests), and prop Wilco Louw (five Tests).
Some of the more experienced men who weren’t considered for the Tests because of injury include last season’s team captains, Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth, last year’s SA Rugby Player of the year, hooker Malcolm Marx, experienced prop Coenie Oosthuizen and one of this season’s form players, lock Lood de Jager.
Erasmus has also opted to leave out a few individuals who were regulars under former coach Allister Coetzee, among them prop Ruan Dreyer, fullback Andries Coetzee, wings Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule, scrumhalves Ross Cronjé and Rudy Paige, as well as Lions wing Ruan Combrinck. Lions stars Lionel Mapoe and Courtnall Skosan (both of whom are nursing niggles) also miss out.
Not surprisingly Erasmus has called up four scrumhalves with an eye on developing them for the future. De Klerk, who plays for the Sale Sharks in England, is sure to be the first choice man, with any one of Van Zyl, Papier and Wright set to be the back-up during the England series.
In every new man picked, Erasmus has rewarded form ahead of history and reputation, with every player in the mix producing quality performances for their respective teams this season, be it in Super Rugby or the PRO14.
“It’s good to see how our exciting young players have grabbed their opportunities for their franchises in the last couple of months,” said Erasmus.
“But I also know how important experience is at Test level, so we thought long and hard about which players to pull in from abroad, and in the end we only settled on five who we thought consistently performed well for their clubs.
“I am confident we have a strong group of players from which we will be able to select a very competitive team for each of the four Tests in June.”
Erasmus will only name his captain on Monday. The front-runners for the job are Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen and Handré Pollard.
The team to face Wales in the USA next Saturday will be announced on Wednesday, with a group of 26 players expected to go to Washington and the rest staying behind to prepare for the three Tests against Eddie Jones’ England.
The squad will assemble in Johannesburg on Sunday and kickoff their on-field preparations on Monday.
Fullbacks/utility: Curwin Bosch, Willie le Roux, Warrick Gelant
Wings: Travis Ismaiel, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Makazole Mapimpi, S’bu Nkosi
Centres: Lukhanyo Am, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, André Esterhuizen, Frans Steyn
Flyhalves: Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Robert du Preez
Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Cameron Wright
Loose forwards: Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr, Kwagga Smith, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Oupa Mohoje, Siya Kolisi, Jean-Luc du Preez, Dan du Preez
Locks: RG Snyman, Marvin Orie, Franco Mostert, Jason Jenkins, Pieter-Steph du Toit
Props: Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane
Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe