South Africa’s rugby coach Rassie Erasmus on Monday named a 31-man squad with few surprises that will represent the nation at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The squad is laced with experience with three players (Frans Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira and Francois Louw) set to play in their third World Cup while 12 others will play in their second tournament.
16 of the 31 players selected are lined up to make their Rugby World Cup debuts, including 2017 SA Rugby Player of the Year Malcolm Marx, Elton Jantjies, Makazole Mapimpi, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman and Faf de Klerk.
Regular captain Siya Kolisi will lead the Springboks having made his competitive return to international rugby in a one-off Test against Argentina. He is the only player in the squad not to have played at any one time in their Rugby Championship-winning campaign.
Blue Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka, however, was overlooked for selection despite an impressive Super Rugby season. Fellow Sharks prop Thomas du Toit also missed out on selection.
Eben Etzebeth was named in their squad despite reports of an involvement in an altercation with a homeless man in Cape Town. Etzebeth has taken to social media to deny the accusations.
Erasmus expressed his satisfaction with the squad noting that the squad, which he has been developing since the beginning of the previous season, had a balance of experience and exciting youth.
“We set out with the goal of growing the depth of the squad and I am confident that any of this 31 can step into a play-off match at the Rugby World Cup and deliver an outstanding performance,” Erasmus said.
South Africa have won the Rugby World Cup twice since its inception in 1987: 1995 on home soil and 2007 in France.
South Africa is expected to play its final warm-up match against Japan on September 6 in Kumagaya.
The Springboks open their World Cup campaign in Pool B against defending champions New Zealand on September 21. They will then play Namibia a week later, Italy on October 4 and Canada on October 8.
Forwards: Steven Kitshoff, Tendai Mtawarira, Schalk Brits, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Siya Kolisi (c), Francois Louw, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs: Warrick Gelant, Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Sibusiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Francois Steyn, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard, Herschel Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach.