Warren Whiteley has been named the 58th Springbok captain and will get his first opportunity to lead the team when a much-changed squad, which includes eight uncapped players, gets together for the Incoming Series against France at a training camp in Plettenberg Bay next week.
The national selectors also recalled six experienced players to the squad. They are Rugby World Cup winner Frans Steyn, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Duane Vermeulen, Coenie Oosthuizen and Chiliboy Ralepelle. They have more than 200 Test caps of experience between them.
Of the eight uncapped players in the squad, six are backs and two play in the forwards. They are Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka.
Four of these, Rhule, Cronje, Dreyer and Gqoboka have previously toured with the Boks, but are yet to play in a Test match for South Africa.
The squad, which consists of 18 forwards and 13 backs, was announced by SA Rugby President Mr Mark Alexander at the SuperSport Studios in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The Springboks will face France on Saturday 10 June at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, followed by Tests at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban (17 June) and Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg (24 June).
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee also announced the appointment of Whiteley as Springbok captain for the forthcoming June internationals. The Emirates Lions number eight succeeds Adriaan Strauss, who retired from Test rugby at the end of last season.
The 31-man Springbok squad will assemble on Monday, 29 May for a week-long camp in Plettenberg Bay before moving camp to Pretoria where they will fine-tune final preparations for the first Test.
Steyn, who plays for French side Montpellier and was a member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning squad, last featured in a Springbok Test in 2012, while Ralepelle is back in the Bok squad after four years – his last Test was in 2013.
Serfontein was injured and missed the entire 2016 season, while Oosthuizen, who played in 23 Tests between 2012 and 2015, is also back in the squad having fully recovered from his injuries.
Vermeulen featured in only two Tests in 2016 before suffering an injury during the home series against Ireland, while Hougaard returns after missing the Outgoing Tour to the United Kingdom and Italy at the end of 2016 due to injury.
Coetzee said he was satisfied with the composition of the group, which has a good balance of promising newcomers and experienced players. He also explained the decision to reward Whiteley with the captaincy.
“Warren has been one of the outstanding leaders in South African rugby for many years,” he said.
“He is respected by his team-mates and opposition alike and has a lot of experience when it comes to captaincy, having led the Emirates Lions with great authority for many seasons. He is resilient, copes well under pressure and makes good decisions.
“The national selectors have rewarded form and we are looking forward to face the French team next month. I am confident the players will do the jersey and our country proud,” said Coetzee.
“A Lot of hard work has been done since the start of the season to make sure we improve as a team. The collaboration and spirit showed at the various indabas and other gatherings are proof that we are moving in the right direction.
“The three preseason training camps gave us the chance to have a close look at a number of players, especially those who haven’t been involved with the Springboks previously. We were also kept abreast of the form and the progress of the overseas-based group of players.”
The third training camp finished in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning, with Coetzee emphasising the importance of the training camps.
“I want to especially thank the franchise and conditioning coaches for their contribution towards the success of the training camps,” according to the Bok coach.
Fly-half Pat Lambie is still symptomatic following his concussion. After discussions with the player and the medical teams of both the Springboks and the Sharks, it was decided not to consider him for selection for the Springbok squad.
Apart from Lambie, the following players were not considered for Springbok and SA A selection because of injury, or as stated otherwise: JC van Rensburg (prop, Stormers), Julian Redelinghuys (prop, Lions), Francois Louw (flank, Bath, UK), Roelof Smit (flank Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (flank, Ulster, Ireland), Handre Pollard (flyhalf, Bulls), Jean-Luc du Plessis (flyhalf, Stormers), Kurt Coleman (flyhalf, Stormers), Robert du Preez (flyhalf, Stormers), Howard Mnisi (centre, Lions), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (centre, Lions), Nico Lee (centre, Cheetahs), Leolin Zas (wing, Stormers), Curwin Bosch (flyhalf, Sharks, Junior Springboks), Andre Esterhuizen (centre, Sharks, suspended) and RG Snyman (lock, Bulls, suspended).
Forwards: Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Ruan Dreyer, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Lizo Gqoboka, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley (c)
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Damian de Allende, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Rudy Paige, Raymond Rhule, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Frans Steyn