Springbok squad has 11 uncapped players

Edwill van der Merwe and Ethan Hooker force their way in

09 June 2024 - 09:27
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Edwill van der Merwe of the Lions in action in a URC match against the Stormers. Van der Merwe has been included in the Springbok 35-man squad.
Edwill van der Merwe of the Lions in action in a URC match against the Stormers. Van der Merwe has been included in the Springbok 35-man squad.
Image: Shaun Roy (Gallo Images)

The Lions' Edwill van der Merwe and the Sharks' Ethan Hooker are the surprise inclusions in the Springboks' 35-man training squad in preparation for the one-off Test against Wales in London on June 22.

Van der Merwe has scooted and contested with fervour for the Lions and possibly earned his inclusion after the Bulls' Kurt-Lee Arendse's participation in the series against Ireland was put in doubt when he fractured his cheekbone on Saturday.

Hooker has cut a muscular presence in midfield for the Sharks in the absence of the injured Lukhanyo Am.

There was, however, no room in the Bok group for Lions' playmaker Sanele Nohamba though the injury he sustained against the Stormers last weekend may have precluded his inclusion in the group.

The squad includes 11 uncapped players and several survivors from their Rugby World Cup-winning squads of 2019 and 2023.

The uncapped players in the squad are Van der Merwe, Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Morne van den Berg (all Lions players), Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku, Ethan Hooker (all Sharks), Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter (all Stormers).

Players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland will not be considered for the Boks’ first Test of the season against Wales at Twickenham. Players in contention from the Bulls, who advanced to the semifinal of the United Rugby Championship, were also not considered for this squad.

The squad includes 19 forwards and 16 backs. World Cup-winning flyhalf Handré Pollard and No.8 Jasper Wiese (who is serving a six-week ban) have been named in the group and will be allowed to train with their teammates, but will only be available for selection after the Wales Test.

Players plying their trade in Japan were also named in the squad.

The only players in the group who did not participate in either of the Springbok alignment sessions in March and May respectively, as well as the virtual alignment camp hosted early in May, are Hooker and Van der Merwe.

We selected a group of players featuring a good mix of youth and experience, and in terms of the young players especially, we believe they have the potential to make the step-up to top international rugby,” Erasmus said.

We’ve been following all their performances closely, we had the luxury of presenting our plans to them and getting to know them as individuals off the field at the alignment camps, and we are pleased with the enthusiasm they showed and willingness to learn.

With the players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland not available for Wales, we anticipate that there will be a few players making their Test debuts in that match. But even for those who do not make the cut, having them in camp and getting the chance to work closely with them on the field will set them and the team in good stead as we prepare for this season and start laying the foundation for the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

“We gained immense value by granting a few players a chance to prove what they can do at international level in the last few years leading up to the 2023 World Cup. Some of the players who made their Test debuts in that time were members of the squad that lifted the trophy in Paris, and we feel it is important that we continue blooding new players as we build towards the future.

As things stand, we have a bunch of young players that already have Test experience and who know exactly how we operate as a team and what is expected of them at this level, and we have no doubt that we will reap the rewards in the years to come as we continue to increase our squad depth.

As always there are a few unlucky players who missed out on selection this time, but the door will always be open for them to be called up if the need arises.”

SA Rugby indicated Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager and Jaden Hendrikse among a handful players were not considered for the squad due to injury.

Springbok training squad (in alphabetical order):

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi (Sharks), Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon (both Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Eben Etzebeth (Sharks), Neethling Fouche (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Sharks), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Ox Nche (Sharks), Evan Roos (Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Blu Revs), Andre-Hugo Venter (Stormers), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Backs: Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), André Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Aphelele Fassi (Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Lions), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (Stormers), Ethan Hooker (Sharks), Quan Horn (Lions), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Manie Libbok (Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku (both Sharks), Handré Pollard (Leicester Tigers), Morne van den Berg (Lions), Edwill van der Merwe (Lions), Grant Williams (Sharks).


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