De Villiers eyes large Bok training squad

South African rugby coach Peter de Villiers said on Wednesday he is to name a national training squad of up 45 players for the forthcoming international season.

De Villiers, who took over the reigns from World Cup-winning coach Jake White in January this year, is expected to include Europe-based players John Smit (Clermont), Butch James (Bath) and Victor Matfield (Toulon) in the squad.

Smit, who led the Boks to glory at the World Cup in France last October, has already been handed the captaincy by De Villiers, while Matfield has recently confirmed he is heading back to the Bulls in Pretoria following his six-month contract with the French second division club.

With South Africa’s limited depth at flyhalf, James is certain to get a look-in, but there is unlikely to be a spot for veteran fullback Percy Montgomery, who is playing for Perpignan in France.

De Villiers will also have to consider whether the likes of injured flanker Schalk Burger of the Stormers as well as his wing teammate, Tonderai Chavanga, also injured, will be ready for the first Test of the season.

The squad is likely to include the majority of the players who did duty during last October’s World Cup, but veteran prop Os du Randt and loose forward Bob Skinstad will be absent as both have retired from the game.

The 45-man squad will be named on Saturday May 17, following the Super 14 match between the Sharks and Chiefs in Durban.

The Springboks face Six Nations champions, Wales, in a two-Test series in South Africa in June. The World Champions will also play Italy, who’re now coached by former Bok mentor Nick Mallett, before turning their attention to the Tri-Nations series.

Meanwhile, White is no longer in the running to take charge of the British and Irish Lions when they tour South Africa in 2009.

White’s agent Craig Livingstone told Beeld: “We have not been approached [about the position].”

The coach of the side will be named next week.—AFP

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