On Saturday, just minutes after the Stormers had set up an all-South African final in the URC against the Bulls, the Springbok coaches unveiled a world-class squad for the 2022 season. However, many were left shocked when they noticed the name of veteran World Cup winner Duane Vermeulen was missing.
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However, it has since been explained – and as also reported in Rapport – that Vermeulen has been battling with knee pain for some time, and will be given time to rest and treat the injury.
The 35-year-old is not expected to be sidelined for an extensive period of time, though, and should come back into the squad during the Rugby Championship later this year.
In the absence of Vermeulen, the Boks could continue with Kwagga Smith at No 8, while exciting youngsters such as Elrigh Louw and Evan Roos are also options in addition to Jasper Wiese.
Of course, Marcell Coetzee – who received somewhat of a surprise call-up – could also cover No 8, although he is also an option at blindside or openside flank.
The Springbok group of 43 players features eight uncapped players. These players are No 8 Evan Roos (Stormers), and flank Elrigh Louw (Bulls), locks Ruan Nortje (Bulls) and Salmaan Moerat (Stormers), utility forward Deon Fourie (Stormers), fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls), scrumhalf Grant Williams, and prop Ntuthuko Mchunu (both Sharks).
A squad of 17 players gathered in Pretoria for the opening week of the team’s preparation camp last week, featuring a number of cSharks and Japanese-based players.
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With the Bulls and Stormers advancing to the final of the United Rugby Championship next week, Nienaber called up Roos, Fourie,.Warrick Gelant (fullback) who makes a return to the national set-up for the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Moerat and Marvin Orie (both locks), Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (both props), Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and Damian Willemse (utility back) from the Cape-based franchise, while Coetzee, Louw, Nortje and Arendse join from the Vodacom Bulls.
Despite the absence of Vermeulen, the Boks named a formidable squad
Nienaber’s squad also includes a group of older hands in Eben Etzebeth (Sharks), Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks – both locks), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Rynardt Elstadt (Tououse), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat – all utility forwards), , Damian de Allende (Munster), Andre Esterhuizen, Jesse Kriel – both centres), Vincent Kock (Sarancens), Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92 – both props), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks scrumhalf), Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux hooker), Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes), Handre Pollard (Montpellier – both flyhalves), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz – both fullbacks). Malcolm Marx (Kebota Spears hooker), and Jasper Wiese (Leicester – No 8).
However, Frans Steyn – as is the case with Vermeulen – was not available due to injury.
The remaining players are set to join the squad following their club and franchise commitments.
Johan Goosen (flyhalf) – who joined Cobus Reinach in the opening week – will also remain with the squad until of the conclusion of the camp to continue his rehabilitation, with Reinach set to remain with the group.
“Building squad depth is one of the key areas for us, and it is great to see the number of young players who have put up their hands this season, and we are delighted to invite them to the national squad environment,” said Nienaber.
“It is also good to welcome back some of the experienced players who have been part of our structures for a few years now, and I’m confident they will slot back into set-up with ease.
“We obviously have to wait a little longer for some players to be released from their club commitments, but we are pleased to be able to announce the squad with exactly three weeks to go before our opening Test against Wales.”
The Boks will kick off their 2022 season with three Tests against Wales in the Incoming Series on 2, 9 and 16 July respectively before launching into the Rugby Championship, where they will line up against the All Blacks in back-to-back home Tests, which will be followed by a tour to Australia and Argentina. They will then return home for their final Test against the Pumas in Durban in September.
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Springbok squad for International season:
Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks)
Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers)
Vincent Koch (Saracens)
Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers)
Ntuthuko Mchunu (Cell C Sharks)
Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks)
Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92)
Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux)
Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears)
Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks),
Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks)
Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks)
Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers)
Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls)
Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz)
Marcell Coetzee (Vodacom Bulls)
Siya Kolisi (Cell C Sharks)
Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls)
Evan Roos (DHL Stormers)
Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo)
Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers)
Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse)
Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers)
Franco Mostert (Honda Heat)
Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks)
Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks)
Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers)
Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks)
Johan Goosen IVodacom Bulls)
Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes)
Handre Pollard (Montpellier Herrault),
Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks)
Damian de Allende (Munster)
Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins)
Jesse Kriel (Cannon Eagles)
Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks)
Warrick Gelant (DHL Stormers)
Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon)
Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz)
Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks)
Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls)
Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers)