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14 May 2008 11:12
New Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is spoilt for choice ahead of the Springboks’ first Test of the year, against Six Nations champions Wales on June 7 in Bloemfontein.
De Villiers, who took over from World Cup-winning coach Jake White at the beginning of the year, names his first South Africa squad on Saturday.
According to the new Bok boss, up to 45 players could be invited to a training camp in Somerset West from next week.
However, De Villiers will not select any players from Super 14 teams the Stormers and the Sharks should they qualify for the southern hemisphere inter-provincial competition’s semifinals—to be played on the weekend of May 24.
The final round of league matches is this weekend and both the Stormers (fourth on the log) and Sharks (fifth) are in with a chance of making the play-offs.
The majority of De Villiers’s squad is expected to be made up of players who donned the green and gold in France at the World Cup last October.
The Boks, under the captaincy of John Smit, went on to win the tournament, beating England in the final.
Smit has already been named captain of the side even though he has been plying his trade at Clermont in France since November last year.
He will not be the only overseas-based South African to be included in the training group.
De Villiers has helped lure lock forward Victor Matfield back to the Bulls from French Second Division leaders Toulon to keep alive his chances of continued involvement with the Boks till the World Cup in 2011.
Matfield will return to South Africa at the end of the month after signing a new three -ear deal with the Bulls.
Veteran fullback Percy Montgomery could also be recalled from Perpignan in France, while Bath flyhalf Butch James could provide much-needed experience to the flyhalf position.
Other members of the World Cup-winning team such as Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Francois Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Juan Smith, Bakkies Botha and CJ van der Linde have all showed good enough form to be included.
But other overseas-based Boks such as hooker Gary Botha and wing Ashwin Willemse are unlikely to get a call-up.
The main reason for this is that the Super 14 competition has allowed several newcomers on the scene to stake claims for national honours. Among these include Stormers players lock Andries Bekker, hooker Schalk Brits, flyhalf Peter Grant, wing Tonderai Chavangha and Sharks stars wing Odwa Ndungane, scrumhalf Rory Kockott, number eight Ryan Kankowski and flanker Jacques Botes.
Players from the Stormers and Sharks are expected to provide the bulk of the squad.
One player who won’t be part of the first Test of the season is flanker Schalk Burger.
The blonde-haired loose forward is nursing a knee injury and won’t be considered for the Bok team at this stage.
While few eyebrows are likely to be raised at the players De Villiers selects, there are, as is the case every time a national squad is named, expected to be some surprise inclusions.
Among these could be several players who played under the coach at under-19 and under-21 level in the last few years.—Sapa-AFP
The Boks’ incoming Tests and Tri-Nations dates this year are:
June 7: Wales (Bloemfontein)
June 14: Wales (Pretoria)
June 21: Italy (Cape Town)
July 5: New Zealand (Wellington)
July 12: New Zealand (Dunedin)
July 19 Australia (Perth)
August 16: New Zealand (Cape Town)
August 23: Australia (Durban)
August 30: Australia (Johannesburg)
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