British & Irish Lions

Springboks name Lions series squad laden with World Cup winners, while Fassi, Dweba, Wiese called up

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Rassie Erasmus
Rassie Erasmus
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As expected, the Springboks have leaned heavily on their World Cup winners in their squad for next month's series against the British & Irish Lions.

No less than 29 of that vintage's 30 players eligible form part of a broader 46-man squad assembled by Jacques Nienaber, the national coach, and Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby's director of rugby, on Saturday evening.

Two of South Africa's major injury doubts, the lock pairing of Lood de Jager and RG Snyman, were both included despite not having returned to competitive action since sustaining leg and knee problems respectively.

"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," said Erasmus.

"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."

Duane Vermeulen, justifiably considered one of Nienaber's talismans, is also present despite having to undergo scans on an injured ankle early next week, sustained in the Bulls' last-gasp 31-27 victory over the Stormers in the Rainbow Cup on Friday night.

One of the major sub-plots from the announcement is the fairy tale return of 36-year-old Morne Steyn, who rose to international stardom with the 52m penalty that clinched the Springboks' previous series win over the composite team back in 2009.

He hasn't played Test rugby since October 2016, but has been a standout performer for the Bulls since Jake White has taken over.

Whether Steyn will displace Elton Jantjies as Handre Pollard's official deputy is an open question though there have been observers who believe his form might even warrant an unlikely spot in the starting line-up.

"Players such as Frans and Morné [Steyn] 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," Nienaber said. 

"The squad features 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."

The fact that at least a dozen extra players have been called up to accommodate the Lions' tour match against South Africa 'A' - and not compromise the Boks' hard bio-bubble - has the added benefit of providing a relatively clear picture of who Nienaber and Co. consider to be the back-ups to the core squad.

Jasper Wiese completed his meteoric rise, a mere seven months since leaving the Cheetahs to join Leicester Tigers in England, while livewire Lions midfielder Wandisile Simelane will surely revel being in the Bok environment for over a month.

Aside from Simelane, Sharks trio of Aphelele Fassi, Joseph Dweba and Yaw Penxe also received dream call-ups to the wider squad.

The consistent magic produced by former Blitzboks legend Rosko Specman over the past two years has also been rewarded with a call-up.

The presence of the Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, also presents the Boks with a variety of options, particularly Jean-Luc, who's been excellent at lock for Sale Sharks.

Springbok squad:

Forwards

Props: 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)

Hookers: 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)

Locks: 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)

Loose forwards: Dan du Preez (Sale Sharks, 4 caps, 0 pts), Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers, 55 caps, 25 pts), Siya Kolisi (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)

Utility forwards: Jean-Luc du Preez (Sale Sharks, 13 caps, 10 pts), Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse, 2 caps, 0 pts)

Backs

Scrumhalves: 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)

Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies (Pau, 37 caps, 281 pts), Handré Pollard (Montpellier, 48 caps 457 pts), Morné Steyn (Vodacom Bulls, 66 caps, 736 pts)

Midfielders: 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)

Outside Backs: 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)

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