Nienaber names Bok squad with 29 World Cup-winners for Lions series

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby director of rugby, during the Springbok virtual media briefing in Cape Town on May 28, 2021.
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby director of rugby, during the Springbok virtual media briefing in Cape Town on May 28, 2021.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Veterans Frans Steyn and Morné Steyn will get the rare opportunity of facing the British & Irish Lions twice after they were named in the Springbok squad for the Lions Series and Georgia internationals.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander announced the squad on Saturday, featuring several Rugby World Cup-winners and exciting uncapped players, to do duty for the first time since the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan on November 2, 2019.

The 46-man squad includes 29 World Cup-winners and eight uncapped players.

The Springboks will return to action against unheralded Georgia on July 2 and 9, before battling it out against the British & Irish Lions in three Tests on July 24 and 31 and August 7.

The South Africa “A” team, which will comprise of players from this squad, will also meet the Lions on Wednesday, July 14.

Apart from Morné Steyn, and Frans Steyn, both of whom were key members of the Springbok team in 2009, this year’s extravaganza will have extra significance for Duane Vermeulen who was a member of the Emerging Springbok team that season.

The entire 2019 World Cup-winning squad, except for the retired trio of Tendai Mtawarira, Francois Louw and Schalk Brits and the injured Warrick Gelant, were named in Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber’s squad.

The eight uncapped players are Joseph Dweba (hooker), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (lock), Jasper Wiese (loose forward), Sanele Nohamba (scrumhalf), Wandisile Simelane (centre), Yaw Penxe, Rosko Specman (both wings) and Aphelele Fassi (fullback).

Seven players in the squad boast 50 or more Test caps, with Eben Etzebeth leading the pack with an impressive 85 caps. Morné Steyn, who last played for the Boks in 2016, headlines a list of 10 players who will make a welcome return to the Springbok squad.

“The British & Irish Lions tour occurs once every 12 years so it’s a very special occasion,” Alexander said.

“In most instances, it comes around only once in a Springbok player’s career, so I would like to congratulate the players who have been selected and wish them luck as they prepare to defend their crown.

“The rivalry between the Springboks and the Lions has been fierce, but it is also characterised by a tremendous respect. As the excitement and anticipation builds in South Africa and the United Kingdom for the spectacle, I would also like to express our gratitude to our valued partners for their magnificent support as we continue to navigate our way through these extraordinary times.”

SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said the selection of the squad followed a detailed process, including several alignment camps both locally and abroad, as well as visits by the Bok coaching staff to the various local franchise teams.

“We have been keeping a close eye on the players’ performances since professional rugby resumed late last season and we followed that up with a series of alignment camps and franchise visits,” Erasmus said.

“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.

“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,” concluded Erasmus.

Nienaber, who will make his first appearance as Springbok head coach when the team takes the field, echoed Erasmus’ sentiments about the quality of the squad, and said he was looking forward to a memorable start to the international season.

“It is a surreal feeling to name a Springbok squad after such a long absence from international rugby, and the fact that these players will have a chance to measure themselves in such a special tour makes it even more remarkable,” said Nienaber.

“Players such as Frans and Morné 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.

“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.”

Nienaber added: “A huge challenge lies ahead, and the fact that we will be taking on this task after a 20-month absence from international rugby means we need to hit the ground running.

“The Tests against the passionate Georgian team will be tough. They are very physical, and their passion shows in their performances, and this is the kind of preparation we need going into the Castle Lager Lions Series.”

The team will kick off their preparations on Monday with a three-week conditioning camp in Bloemfontein.

The locally-based players will assemble at their base on Sunday, with the overseas-based players joining in clusters according to their club commitments.

The squad will be trimmed following the encounter between the South Africa ‘A’ team and British & Irish Lions.

Springbok squad:

Props: Thomas du Toit (Sharks), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Saracens), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Ox Nché (Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Coenie Oosthuizen (Sale Sharks)

Hookers:  Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux-Bègles), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Scarra Ntubeni (Stormers)

Locks: Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks), Eben Etzebeth (Toulon), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Marvin Orie (Stormers), RG Snyman (Munster)

Loose forwards: Dan du Preez (Sale Sharks), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Siya Kolisi (Sharks), Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo), Marco van Staden (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Bulls), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers)

Utility forwards: Jean-Luc du Preez (Sale Sharks), Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse)

Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks), Herschel Jantjies (Stormers), Sanele Nohamba (Sharks), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier)

Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies (Pau), Handré Pollard (Montpellier), Morné Steyn (Bulls)

Midfielders: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Munster), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Wandisile Simelane (Lions), Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs)

Outside Backs: Aphelele Fassi (Sharks), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks), Sbu Nkosi (Sharks), Yaw Penxe (Sharks), Rosko Specman (Cheetahs), Damian Willemse (Stormers)