Shock selections in White's Springbok squad

Another bright new dawn for Springbok rugby was initiated on Sunday with the announcement of Jake White’s 22-man squad for the Tests against Ireland and Wales next month.

The squad includes two overseas-based players—Leicester’s Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Percy Montgomery of Newport—as well as six players of colour.

“We are satisfied that we have picked the best side available,” said White at the press conference in Sandton, “and I never said that the Super 12 would be used as a barometer. We are trying to establish a settled team that will hopefully not have to change too much and maybe we can have this same team playing for us in December.”

White, who sent letters to 55 prospective Boks at the beginning of the Super 12, admitted that not all the players in the 22-man squad had actually received letters.

“[Western Province prop] Eddie Andrews is an example, but there are others, but I’m not saying because that will give too much away,” he said.

Concern over 50-Test veteran Montgomery’s hand injury was played down by the coach.

“Percy’s injury is not his wrist as first thought, but instead it’s just a little bone in the top of the hand. By all accounts it will heal in two weeks’ time.”

But the squad does include a number of shocks. The likes of lock Gerrie Britz, centre Ettienne Botha, wing Henno Mentz, fullback Werner Greeff, prop Christo Bezuidenhout, flank Luke Watson and hooker Gary Botha can count themselves unlucky not to have made the final cut.

Interestingly, all find themselves in the South Africa A-squad to play a Namibian Invitational XV in Windhoek on June 5, except Watson, touted by some as the form flanker in the Super 12, who misses out completely.

A dip in fortunes for the Sharks towards the end of the campaign may have cost him a place and indeed just two members of that team are included—skipper John Smit and utility back Brent Russell.

Lions prop Faan Rautenbach and loose-forward Joe van Niekerk, however, are also included despite carrying long-term injuries. White expects both men to be fit and ready for the first Test of the year in four weeks’ time.

Just 11 members of South Africa’s catastrophic World Cup squad remain, while only three new caps—Western Province prop Eddie Andrews, Free State hooker Hanyani Shimange and Bulls scrumhalf Fourie du Preez—find their way into the squad.

Those who keep their places from the World Cup squad are: captain John Smit, De Wet Barry, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Jacque Fourie, Victor Matfield, Faan Rautenbach, Juan Smith, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Joe van Niekerk and Ashwin Willemse.

Departing from the norm that erstwhile Bok coaches have adopted, White has streamlined his squad to include just the 22 that will do duty against the Irish in Bloemfontein on June 12.

Providing there are no injuries during the training camp, “the message that I want to convey to the players is that once your name is announced publicly that you are in the squad, you are definitely in and that gives us a better base to work from. There is no doubt here what these boys are going to be doing on June 12,” explained White shortly after the official announcement was made by South African Rugby Football Union president Brian van Rooyen.

“And if they produced they can stay as long as they like. Only three boys have not played for South Africa before. Is it for the first Test only? That’s up to the individuals to justify.”

The Boks play Ireland in two Tests—the first in Bloemfontein and then at Newlands in Cape Town on June 19—and a one-off Test against Wales in Pretoria the following Saturday.

Meanwhile, South Africa A will be captained by Lions and Cats flanker Wikus van Heerden and includes 14 players who have been capped for the Springboks.—Sapa

Springbok team: Eddie Andrews (WP), De Wet Barry (WP), Bakkies Botha (Blue Bulls), Schalk Burger (WP), Bolla Conradie (WP), Quinton Davids (WP), Fourie du Preez (Blue Bulls), Os du Randt (Free State), Jacque Fourie (Lions), Marius Joubert (WP), Wayne Julies (Free State), Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls), Percy Montgomery (Newport)/Gaffie du Toit (WP), Faan Rautenbach (Lions), Brent Russell (Sharks), Hanyani Shimange (Free State), John Smit (Sharks—captain), Juan Smith (Free State), Jaco van der Westhuyzen (Leicester), Joe van Niekerk (WP), Pedrie Wannenburg (Blue Bulls), Ashwin Willemse (Lions).

South Africa A team: 15 Conrad Jantjes (Lions), 14 Breyton Paulse (WP), 13 Ettienne Botha (Blue Bulls), 12 Adrian Jacobs (Sharks), 11 Henno Mentz (Sharks), 10 Werner Greeff (WP), 9 Neil de Kock (WP); 8 Jacques Cronje (Blue Bulls), 7 Wickus van Heerden (Lions—captain), 6 Kabamba Floors (SWD), 5 Gerrie Britz (Free State), 4 Geo Cronje (Blue Bulls), 3 CJ van der Linde (Free State), 2 Gary Botha (Blue Bulls), 1 Christo Bezuidenhout.

Replacements: 16 Danie Coetzee (Blue Bulls), 17 Gurthro Steenkamp (Free State), 18 Danie Rossouw (Blue Bulls), 19 Adri Badenhorst (WP), 20 Enrico Januarie (Lions), 21 Andre Pretorius (Lions), 22 Jorrie Muller (Lions).

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