Home Sport Springbok coach names 11 uncapped players in a 35-man squad for training...

Springbok coach names 11 uncapped players in a 35-man squad for training camp

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Good news for Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is that previously injured stalwarts Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith will be part of the group who will report for duty on Monday.

Wing Edwill van der Merwe has been in top form for the Lions this season. Picture: Steve Haag Sports, INPHO, Shutterstock, BackpagePix (13792433ah)

Ethan Hooker and Edwill van der Merwe were two surprise inclusions in a 35-man Springbok training squad announced early on Sunday morning for an upcoming camp in Pretoria.

Sharks centre Hooker and Lions wing Van Merwe – who have both been in fine form for their franchises – are among 11 uncapped players who were selected, while the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager, Lukhanyo Am and Jaden Hendrikse were among a group of players not considered due to injury.

Apart from Hooker and Van der Merwe, the rest of the uncapped players included those who have already attended an alignment camp this year – Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Morné van den Berg, Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku, Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mgomezulu, Neethling Fouché and André-Hugo Venter.

Good news for Bok coach Rassie Erasmus is that previously injured stalwarts Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith will be part of the group who will report for duty on Monday in Pretoria, and they are likely to feature in the first Test of the year against Wales in London on June 22.

They are among a Japanese-based contingent that also includes Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert who have been released by their clubs to play against the Welsh at Twickenham.

But those based in the UK, Ireland and Europe are not available for the Wales Test – which includes double World Cup-captain Siya Kolisi – although Handré Pollard, André Esterhuizen and suspended No.8 Jasper Wiese have been allowed to attend the training camp, with Pollard and Esterhuizen sure to play against Ireland in July.

The Stormers’ URC quarter-final defeat against Glasgow on Saturday has resulted in all their players being available for the Wales Test, along with the Sharks stars, but the Bulls contingent weren’t considered after they advanced to the URC semi-finals, where they will face Leinster in Pretoria next Saturday.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus, though, will hope that the likes of the injured Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden recover in time to face Ireland on July 6 and 13.

“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 in a statement.

“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.”

Erasmus added: “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 toward 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.”

Springbok Training Squad (in alphabetical order)

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi, Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Neethling Fouché, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Ox Nche, Evan Roos, Kwagga Smith, André-Hugo Venter, Jasper Wiese.

Backs: Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, André Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Jordan Hendrikse, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Ethan Hooker, Quan Horn, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Manie Libbok, Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku, Handré Pollard, Morné van den Berg, Edwill van der Merwe, Grant Williams.

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