Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, announced the squad on Saturday that will do duty for the first time since the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan on 2 November 2019, with 29 Rugby World Cup winners and eight uncapped players in the 46-man squad.
The Springboks will line up against Georgia on successive Fridays, 2 and 9 July, before battling it out against the British & Irish Lions in three Tests on 24 and 31 July, and 7 August respectively.
The South Africa “A” team, which will comprise of players from this squad, will also meet the Lions on Wednesday, 14 July.
Apart from Morné Steyn (flyhalf) – who kicked the penalty goal that clinched the series win in 2009 – and Frans Steyn (centre), both of whom were key members of the Springbok team during the 2009 campaign, this year’s extravaganza will have extra significance for Duane Vermeulen (No 8), who faced the Lions as a member of the Emerging Springbok and DHL WP teams that season.
The entire 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squad, except for the retired trio of Tendai Mtawarira, Francois Louw and Schalk Brits, and the injured Warrick Gelant, were named in Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber’s squad.
The eight uncapped players are Joseph Dweba (hooker), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (lock), Jasper Wiese (loose forward), Sanele Nohamba (scrumhalf), Wandisile Simelane (centre), Yaw Penxe, Rosko Specman (both wings) and Aphelele Fassi (fullback).
Seven players in the squad boast 50 or more Test caps, with Eben Etzebeth leading the pack with an impressive 85 Caps, while Morné Steyn – who last featured in the green and gold in 2016 – headlines a list of 10 players who will make a welcome return to the Springbok squad.
“The British & Irish Lions tour occurs once every 12 years so it’s a very special occasion,” said Mr Alexander.
“In most instances, it comes around only once in a Springbok player’s career, so I would like to congratulate the players who have been selected and wish them luck as they prepare to defend their crown.
“The rivalry between the Springboks and the Lions has been fierce, but it is also characterised by a tremendous respect. As the excitement and anticipation builds in South Africa and the United Kingdom for the spectacle, I would also like to express our gratitude to our valued partners for their magnificent support as we continue to navigate our way through these extraordinary times.”
SA Rugby Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, said the selection of the squad followed a detailed process, including several alignment camps both locally and abroad, as well as visits by the Bok coaching staff to the various local franchise teams.
“We have been keeping a close eye on the players’ performances since professional rugby resumed late last season and we followed that up with a series of alignment camps and franchise visits,” said Erasmus.
“We have put together a very talented group of players, and we believe the vast experience in the group will complement the exciting bunch of youngsters.
“Several players have been plying their trade abroad, and that has enabled them to rack up quality game time in top class competitions against world class opposition, many of whom were included in the Lions squad, while the locally-based players have also been able to build up quality game time over a number of competitions.”
Nienaber, who will make his first appearance as Springbok head coach when the team take the field, echoed Erasmus’ sentiments about the quality of the squad, and he looked forward to a memorable start to the international season.
“It is a surreal feeling to name a Springbok squad after such a long absence from international rugby, and the fact that these players will have a chance to measure themselves in such a special tour makes it even more remarkable,” said Nienaber.
“Players such as Frans and Morné have been here before and they can attest to the huge privilege it is to be part of a British & Irish Lions tour, so I am very excited for this squad.
“The squad feature a bunch of Rugby World Cup-winners who know what it takes to perform and be successful at the highest level, as well as a handful of very talented young players who all proved that they deserve an opportunity at this level.”
Nienaber added: “A huge challenge lies ahead, and the fact that we will be taking on this task after a 20-month absence from international rugby means we need to hit the ground running.
“The Tests against the passionate Georgian team will be tough. They are very physical, and their passion shows in their performances, and this is the kind of preparation we need going into the Castle Lager Lions Series.”
The team will kick off their preparations on Monday with a three-week conditioning camp in Bloemfontein. The locally-based players will assemble at their base on Sunday, with the overseas-based players joining in clusters according to their club commitments.
The squad will be trimmed following the encounter between the South Africa ‘A’ team and British & Irish Lions.
Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks, 12 caps, 0 pts)
Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers, 47 caps, 5 pts)
Vincent Koch (Saracens, 21 caps, 0 pts)
Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers, 38 caps, 5 pts)
Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks, 1 cap, 0 pts)
Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls, 42 caps, 5 pts)
Coenie Oosthuizen (Sale Sharks, 30 caps, 20 pts)
Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux-Bègles, uncapped)
Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears, 33 caps, 25 pts)
Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers, 36 caps, 35 pts)
Scarra Ntubeni (DHL Stormers, 1 cap, 0 pts)
Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks, 45 caps, 25 pts)
Eben Etzebeth (Toulon, 85 caps, 15 pts)
Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier, uncapped)
Franco Mostert (Honda Heat, 39 caps, 5 pts)
Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers, 3 caps, 0 pts)
RG Snyman (Munster, 23 caps, 5 pts)
Dan du Preez (Sale Sharks, 4 caps, 0 pts)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers, 55 caps, 25 pts)
Siya Kolisi (captain - Cell C Sharks, 50 caps, 30 pts)
Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo, 6 caps, 0 pts)
Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls, 3 caps, 0 pts)
Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls, 54 caps, 15 pts)
Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
Jean-Luc du Preez (Sale Sharks, 13 caps, 10 pts)
Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse, 2 caps, 0 pts)
Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, 30 caps, 20 pts)
Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers, 10 caps, 20 pts)
Sanele Nohamba (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Cobus Reinach (Montpellier, 14 caps, 30 pts)
Elton Jantjies (Pau, 37 caps, 281 pts)
Handré Pollard (Montpellier, 48 caps 457 pts)
Morné Steyn (Vodacom Bulls, 66 caps, 736 pts)
Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks, 15 caps, 15 pts)
Damian de Allende (Munster, 47 caps, 30 pts)
Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles, 46 caps, 60 pts)
Wandisile Simelane (Emirates Lions, uncapped)
Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs, 67 caps, 141 pts)
Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, 14 caps, 40 pts)
Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, 61 caps, 60 pts)
Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks, 14 caps, 70 pts)
Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks, 11 caps, 40 pts)
Yaw Penxe (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Rosko Specman (Toyota Cheetahs, uncapped)
Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers, 6 caps, 5 pts)