Something OLD, something NEW …

2011-08-24 00:00

THEY might have been out of sight but they were not out of mind, and flank Francois Louw and wing Odwa Ndungane are the bolters in Peter de Villiers’ Rugby World Cup squad announced last night.

The two had not been mentioned as serious contenders for the RWC until Monday when there were murmurings that the pair would be the wildcard selections.

Ndungane’s ability to play wing and fullback earned him selection ahead of specialist wing Lwazi Mvovo, while the selectors, desperate for a back-up to Heinrich Brüssow, the fetcher, have done an about-turn on Louw and recalled him from England.

The irony is that Louw headed north after being snubbed by the Springbok selectors, but absence has indeed made the heart grow fonder and he has edged out Jean Deysel and Ashley Johnson, both members of the Bok Tri-Nations squad, for the fifth loose forward position.

De Villiers’s decision to divide the squad between 16 forwards and 14 backs (and not the expected 17:13 split) was to Ndungane’s advantage but it cost Deysel his place as the additional loose forward.

One of the more fortunate member of the 30 man squad is Frans Steyn, who will travel to New Zealand with a hamstring strain, extra baggage around the middle and a scrum cap which doubles as a hairnet.

Steyn told reporters he lost seven kilograms while playing club rugby in France for Racing Metro, but he has bulked up considerably since returning from Paris and he looked out of condition in the Test against the Wallabies in Durban earlier this month.

The powerful, brave and talented 24-year-old has a key role to play on the heavy fields of New Zealand, but he has just 18 days to return to peak fitness ahead of the RWC opener against Wales.

There had been some debate over the back-up for veterans Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha in the second-row and there was a minor surprise when former Sharks captain Johann Muller was recalled from Ireland. Danie Rossouw will be the fourth lock in the squad as Gerhard Mostert misses selection.

The rest of the squad was entirely predictable and the only concern is over the fitness of Steyn (hamstring), Pat Lambie (collar bone) and flank Schalk Burger, who has not seen action in two months.

The squad is rich in experience. Remarkably, coach Peter de Villiers has included 18 members — 11 started in the final — of the Springboks’ triumphant 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning squad. There are no uncapped players in the squad.

“The squad has a backbone of proven title-winning ability and experience as well as a strong component of new stars,” said De Villiers. “Injury has denied us one or two players, but I am very happy with the squad we have picked.”

The squad is made up of nine players who appeared in Super Rugby for the Bulls this season, eight from the Sharks and seven from the Stormers. There are four overseas-based players: the Ulster duo of Ruan Pienaar and Muller, Racing Metro’s Frans Steyn and Louw (Bath).

The Springboks leave for New Zealand on September 1 and play their first Rugby World Cup match against Wales on September 11 in Wellington.

SPRINGBOK SQUAD:

Backs (14): Frans Steyn, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon, Odwa Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Butch James, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard and Ruan Pienaar.

Forwards (16): Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Johann Muller, Beast Mtawarira, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Jannie du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, John Smit (capt), Bismarck du Plessis and Chiliboy Ralepelle.

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