Duane Vermeulen, Lionel Mapoe and Sarel Pretorius have been selected for the Springboks’ 51-man World Cup planning squad.
Bok coach Peter de Villiers named an extended squad on Wednesday consisting of 51 South-Africa based players. Men like Butch James, Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn and BJ Botha, who are currently based in the northern hemisphere, will come into consideration once their commitments to their clubs have been fulfilled.
In explaining his decision to pick Vermeulen, Mapoe and Pretorius, De Villiers said he wants to reward form and hopes this selection will send a message to the incumbents.
‘Duane is one of the unluckiest players in South African rugby,’ the Bok coach said. ‘He plays in a position where we are well covered at the Boks, but he never lets his team down. He has been playing great rugby for the past three seasons, and I see this selection as a just reward. He knows that he is not far away from a Test. If there are injuries to the other players, he will come into consideration.
‘Sarel has really set that Cheetahs team alight. There are a few shortcomings in his game that I will have to talk to him about, but I have been impressed with his work rate. Lionel isn’t half the player he was last year, but we know what he can do. I think his problems [at the Lions] may be down to the fact that he doesn’t have much space to run.
‘By picking these players, I am definitely sending a message to the other players. Form is going to be a criteria for selection.’
While Pretorius will find it difficult to leapfrog men like Du Preez, Hougaard and Pienaar in the scrumhalf position, Vermeulen has a strong case for the starting position at No 8. De Villiers was honest in his assessment of No 8 incumbent Pierre Spies, who has battled to impose himself over the past two seasons.
‘Spies wasn’t good last year. He missed some tackles. I think he picked himself up on the end-of-year tour, and he is a very strong guy. We know what he can do, but I’d like to see an improvement.
‘I also think his performance this year has something to do with the Bulls’ front row. They haven’t been strong, so there’s been no oomph. I think we’ll see a difference in Spies when a guy like Gurthro Steenkamp comes back [to the Bulls' front row].
De Villiers will confirm his management team on 2 May. While contracts are yet to be signed, he didn’t deny that Rassie Erasmus is set to take up the technical adviser post.
De Villiers will also announce his captain for the World Cup at the 2 May press conference.
Springboks World Cup planning group – Willem Alberts, Gio Aplon, Bjorn Basson, Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Keegan Daniel, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Peter Grant, Bryan Habana, Alistair Hargreaves, Francois Hougaard, Adi Jacobs, Elton Jantjies, Ricky Januarie , Ryan Kankowski, Zane Kirchner, Werner Kruger, Pat Lambie, Francois Louw, Bandise Maku, Lionel Mapoe, Victor Matfield, Charl McLeod, Tendai Mtawarira, Waylon Murray, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Coenie Oosthuizen, JP Pietersen, Dewaldt Potgieter, Sarel Pretorius, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, John Smit, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Deon Stegmann, Morné Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen.