Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has announced the names of the 31 men who will carry South Africa’s hopes and dreams to the Rugby World Cup (RWC) in England next month.
Meyer’s name trended highly on Twitter today as South African fans waited eagerly for the announcement of the 2015 Springbok squad. And finally, here it is…
The team will be captained by Jean de Villiers as he completes his incredible road to recovery after his devastating injury last year. (See video below.)
The squad includes three centurions – De Villiers, Victor Matfield (vice-captain) and Bryan Habana – and the average age of the selected squad members is 26.
Schalk Burger will be providing captaincy back-up.
This will be the fourth rugby world cup for Matfield and Burger, and the third for De Villiers, Habana, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis. It will be the second tournament for six of the players.
For 16 of the sportsmen it will be their first foray into Rugby World Cup action.
One uncapped player was included – Rudy Paige – who was first selected to tour with the Springboks last November.
The combined number of caps in the squad is 1,297.
Coach Meyer said it was very tough to select the final squad from the wider training group that had been together for the last two months.
“Every single player in our wider group worked incredibly hard and to cut the squad to 31 was probably the most difficult selection I’ve faced in my coaching career,” said Meyer.
“In the end, the selectors decided the 31 players named were the best we have at the moment but that is not to say any of the others won’t have a role to play, with injuries a reality in our game.
“Because of the size of the squad, we also had to give more consideration to utility players, who can move around between positions, such as Schalk Brits and Pieter-Steph du Toit, both of whom can play in the back row, as well as Coenie Oosthuizen, who can pack down on both sides of the front row.
“A number of our backs, such as JP, Ruan, Pat Lambie, Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Lwazi Mvovo and Zane Kirchner, are all comfortable to play in more than one position.
“I think the squad has a great balance between youth and experience while keeping together the core of the team that did the country proud in the last few years. We also have a number of players who know what it takes to win a World Cup and their knowledge will be very valuable.
“We’re going to England with the hopes of a nation on our shoulders and we would really like to make our country proud, but we’re under no illusions about how tough it will be.
“The gap between all the nations playing in the tournament has shrunk over the years and this will probably be the closest World Cup yet. But the players have really worked very hard over the last two months and by time we get to Eastbourne for our first match, we’ll hopefully be firing on all cylinders.”
Meyer said that although a number of players currently recovering from injuries were selected, every player in the squad is expected to be fit for the Springboks’ opening match of the Rugby World Cup, on 19 September against Japan.
De Villiers (fractured jaw), Duane Vermeulen (neck), Jannie du Plessis (knee), Fourie du Preez (knee), Willie le Roux (ankle), Francois Louw (shoulder) and Coenie Oosthuizen (neck) are all recovering from various injuries but are close to full match fitness.
“The best medical scenarios were taken into consideration with the selection process. Our medical team have worked incredibly hard with these players and we’re confident they will be ready to be considered to play Japan,” said Meyer.
“Although they have not been able to train fully with the rest of the squad at times, they have really worked hard on their fitness and all of them are incredibly fit, some of them in the best shape of their lives.”
The Springboks will be travelling to England on the back of a good record at Rugby World Cups, although the 2011 tournament ended in disappointment when the team got knocked out in the quarter-finals.
“The Boks have generally done very well at previous tournaments and our aim will be to build on that,” said Meyer.
“A lot of our players featured in 2007 and 2011 and will know what it takes to succeed. There is a lot of talk about the permutations for the quarter-finals, but our aim is only on the first game, against Japan.”
The Springboks will open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Japan on 19 September in Brighton. Their second pool game is on 26 September against Samoa in Birmingham, then follow the Tests against Scotland in Newcastle on 3 October before the South Africans conclude their pool fixtures against the USA in London on 7 October.
Those who didn’t make it…
As per an agreement reached with the provinces in January, all the players who did not make the final Rugby World Cup squad have returned to their provinces and will be available for Absa Currie Cup duty from next week. The same applies to players contracted to overseas clubs.
The Springbok squad for RWC2015 is (in alphabetical order):
Willem Alberts – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Loose forward – 33 caps
Schalk Brits – Saracens, England – Hooker – 8 caps
Schalk Burger – DHL Stormers / Suntory, Japan – Loose forward – 79 caps
Damian De Allende – DHL Stormers / Western Province – Centre / Wing – 7 caps
Lood de Jager – Toyota Cheetahs / Free State Cheetahs – Lock – 12 caps
Jean de Villiers (captain) – DHL Stormers / Western Province – Centre – 107
Bismarck du Plessis – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Hooker – 73
Jannie du Plessis – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Prop – 64
Fourie du Preez – Suntory, Japan – Scrumhalf – 70
Pieter-Steph du Toit – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Utility Forward – 4 caps
Eben Etzebeth – DHL Stormers / Western Province – Lock – 37
Bryan Habana – Toulon, France – Wing – 110
Zane Kirchner – Leinster, Ireland – Fullback / Wing – 30
Siya Kolisi – DHL Stormers / Western Province – Loose forward – 11
Jesse Kriel – Vodacom Bulls / Blue Bulls – Utility Back – 4
Patrick Lambie – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Flyhalf / Fullback – 44
Willie le Roux – Toyota Cheetahs / Free State Cheetahs – Fullback / Wing – 28
Francois Louw – Bath, England – Loose forward – 36
Frans Malherbe – DHL Stormers / Western Province – Prop – 6
Victor Matfield (vice-capt) – Vodacom Bulls / Blue Bulls – Lock – 123
Tendai Mtawarira – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Prop – 68
Lwazi Mvovo – Cell C Sharks / Sharks – Wing / Fullback – 13
Trevor Nyakane – Vodacom Bulls / Blue Bulls – Prop – 16
Coenie Oosthuizen – Toyota Cheetahs / Free State Cheetahs – Utility prop – 21
Rudy Paige – Vodacom Bulls / Blue Bulls – Scrumhalf – 0
Ruan Pienaar – Ulster, N Ireland – Scrumhalf – 84
JP Pietersen – Cell C Sharks / Panasonic, Japan – Centre / Wing – 60
Handré Pollard – Vodacom Bulls / Blue Bulls – Flyhalf – 13
Morné Steyn – Stade Francais, France – Flyhalf – 59
Adriaan Strauss – Vodacom Bulls / Blue Bulls – Hooker – 48
Duane Vermeulen – DHL Stormers / Western Province – No 8 – 29
Congratulations guys! #GoBokke #GoSouthAfrica
Watch Video Trailer: Jean de Villiers: The Road to Recovery. Part 3.
This episode will be aired on 3 September 2015 on SuperSport, Channel SS1 at 19h30. (View previous episodes.)