10 Sharks in SA squad for first Rugby Championship

2012-08-06 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has included 10 Sharks in his 30-man Springbok squad for the inaugural Rugby Championship, but the in-form Ryan Kankowski is surprisingly not among them.

Kankowksi has been South Africa’s form number eight over the past month and it was expected that he would take over from the muscular but often anonymous Pierre Spies in the first Test against newcomers Argentina at Newlands on August 18.

But Meyer, in announcing the squad on Saturday, said Kankowski and centre Wynand Olivier were not considered because they had signed club contracts to play in Japan.

This is strange, because scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar has a contract with Irish club Ulster and has been selected, while Kankowksi had been told that there was an escape clause to his Japanese contract if he was selected for Test rugby.

The cynical might suggest that Meyer made certain Pienaar would be available because he needs him, while the absence of Kankowski ensures that an awkward decision over the immediate future of Spies, the Bulls No. 8, will not have to be taken.

Meyer has been humstrung by injuries, particularly at loose forward where Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brüssow and Duane Vermeulen are all unavailable, along with wing Bjorn Basson, prop Coenie Oosthuizen and the prodigiously talented young flyhalf, Johan Goosen.

Injury has opened the door for five new caps.

They are former Michaelhouse and Sharks prop Pat Cilliers, now with the disintegrating Lions, Stormers loose forward Siya Kolisi, the Bulls’ JJ Engelbrecht (centre/wing), Elton Jantjies (Lions flyhalf) and Jano Vermaak (Bulls scrumhalf).

Most of these players have been in Bok training squads before without playing.

Also included is Stormers lock Andries Bekker after two years on the Test sidelines because of injuries.

The Springbok squad assembled in Cape Town yesterday with the limping Sharks joining them tomorrow to prepare for the August 18 Test.

The 10 Sharks included are wings JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo, fullback Pat Lambie, centre Frans Steyn, front-rowers Beast Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers Bismarck and Jannie, and backrowers Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel.

The Sharks recent semi-final win at Newlands certainly did nothing for the Stormers players — apart from flank Siya Kolisi — and the omission of backs Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh and flyhalf Peter Grant will stir up the locals.

“It is important for us to build continuity in our squad, which is why we did not make too many changes,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“Andries [Bekker] 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 [Cilliers] and Siya Kolisi 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.”

Meyer said he was excited about the series against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s a big challenge, playing six Tests against the best teams in the world in eight weeks and we now have to ensure we improve on how we played against England,” he said.

The squad of 30 will be trimmed to 26 for the Springboks’ trip to Mendoza, where they play Argentina on August 25. A decision on which four players will not travel to South America will be announced after the Test at Newlands.

If needed, the national selectors can make further changes to the squad upon their arrival back from Argentina for the two away Tests against Australia and New Zealand in September and it is hoped that players like Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen will return to full fitness and play in the Currie Cup in the weeks ahead.

There are 11 players from the disappointing Bulls outfit, and most will be on the bench, five from the Stormers who were the Super Rugby log winners, two from the Lions, one from the Cheetahs and Pienaar from Ulster.

THE SPRINGBOK SQUAD

Forwards (18):

Willem Alberts, (Sharks), Andries Bekker, (WP), Pat Cilliers (Lions), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Keegan Daniel (Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Eben Etzebeth (WP), Dean Greyling (Bulls), Siya Kolisi, (WP), Juandré Kruger (Bulls), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Jacques Potgieter (Bulls), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Pierre Spies (Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Jano Vermaak (Bulls).

Backs: (12)

Patrick Lambie (Sharks), Lwazi Mvovo, (Sharks), Jean de Villiers (WP), (captain), JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), Bryan Habana (WP), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Zane Kirchner (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar, (Ulster), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Frans Steyn (Sharks), Morné Steyn (Bulls),

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