Stormers flank Siya Kolisi and Lions tighthead Pat Cilliers have been included in the Springboks’ 30-man squad for the two Tests against Argentina.
The Boks will start their Rugby Championship campaign with two matches against the Pumas, the first in Cape Town on 18 August and the second in Mendoza on 25 August.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer named a 30-man squad on Saturday, but confirmed that this group will be trimmed to 26 ahead of the Test in Mendoza. Meyer added that the squad could change ahead of the more demanding Tests against Australia and New Zealand, and that players who are currently injured may come into contention for those matches.
Kolisi formed part of the larger training group when the Boks played England in June, although he wasn’t considered for selection. Meyer does, however, believe that the powerful loose forward has what it takes to be a Bok, and it could be that Kolisi gets his first Test cap against Argentina.
The Boks are short on loose forwards at present. Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen are expected to make their returns to the rugby field in the Currie Cup this month, and depending on how they fare in terms of match fitness, they may be included in the Bok squad that travels to Australasia.
Meyer will also hope that versatile prop Coenie Oosthuizen gets some game time in the domestic competition. The Cheetahs tighthead injured his neck in the first Test against England, but should be back on the field in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Cilliers will play understudy to Jannie du Plessis. Werner Kruger played in the series against England but hasn’t been recalled for the Tests against Argentina.
No 8 Ryan Kankowski and centre Wynand Olivier are the other notable omissions. Both players will be taking up club contracts in Japan and so won’t be available for the Rugby Championship.
Bjorn Basson was injured in the Super Rugby play-off match between the Bulls and Crusaders three weeks ago. Basson was forced to undergo emergency surgery on a damaged intestine. He only returned to Pretoria recently, and isn’t expected to be back for at least another three weeks.
Other injured Springboks not considered for selection were Juan Smith, Heinrich Brüssow, and Bandise Maku, while uncapped players such as Jaco Taute, Johan Goosen and Vermeulen would have been in the mix if not for their respective ailments.
‘All of these injured players, as well as other players we have identified, could be considered for selection at a later stage in the competition depending on their recovery and the needs of the squad,’ said Meyer.
One player who will be making a long-awaited return from injury is Andries Bekker. The tall No 5 has played regularly for the Stormers in the past two seasons, but has missed every Test in 2011 and 2012 because of injury.
He is likely to replace Juandre Kruger at No 5 in that first Test against Argentina, and it would mark his first international appearance since 17 July 2010.
‘It is important for us to build continuity in our squad, which is why we did not make too many changes,’ said Meyer.
‘Andries was always in the selection frame, but got injured shortly before England arrived and was not available. It’s good to have him back.
‘Pat and Siya were also part of our thinking earlier in the season and have forced their way into the squad with consistently good performances in Super Rugby.’
The Bok squad will get together on Sunday in Cape Town and commence training on Monday.
The Bok players who were involved in Saturday’s Super Rugby final in Hamilton will link up with national squad later in the week.
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Andries Bekker, Pat Cilliers, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Dean Greyling, Siya Kolisi, Juandre Kruger, Tendai Mtawarira, Jacques Potgieter, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe.
Backs: Jean de Villiers (c), JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak.