The Springbok selectors named a match 22 boasting 531 Test caps on Saturday for the match against Wales in Cardiff on June 5.
The starting XV for the one-off clash at the Millennium Stadium includes two new caps with one new selection on the bench.
The inclusion of the newcomers, Stormers wing Gio Aplon and flanker Francois Louw in the run on XV and Cheetahs wing Bjorn Basson on the bench, is due recognition for their consistently good performances during the Super 14 tournament.
Aplon, a Springbok Sevens player, has been one of the stand-out backline players during the Super 14 and also offers an option at fullback. Louw has been crucial to the Stormers’ success at the breakdown this season, combining his size with good technique to dominate in this area.
Basson, who played for the Emerging Springboks against the British and Irish Lions in 2009, is rewarded for some strong performances for the Cheetahs during the last few rounds of the Super 14.
The starting XV includes six overseas-based Springboks — fullback Frans Steyn, centres Jean de Villiers and Butch James, number eight Joe van Niekerk and props BJ Botha and CJ van der Linde.
De Villiers, Botha and van der Linde all featured in the Boks’ final Test of 2009 against Ireland at Croke Park in November. Steyn last played for the Boks in the Tri-Nations decider in Hamilton last August, while 2007 World Cup flyhalf James and van Niekerk last represented South Africa in Tests against Australia in August 2008.
Van der Linde will play at loosehead and Botha at tighthead with Bok captain John Smit at hooker, where he finished the 2009 season against Ireland.
The selection also sees Ruan Pienaar start his first Test at flyhalf since the Tri-Nations clash with the All Blacks in Bloemfontein in July last year. Pienaar’s halfback partner, Ricky Januarie, who has been a regular squad member over the past few years, will start his first Test since the record win over England at Twickenham in London at the end of 2008.
Bulls flanker Dewald Potgieter, who earned his debut Test cap from the bench against Ireland last year, gets his first Test start at blindside flank with regular Juan Smith unavailable for personal reasons. The experienced lock pairing of Andries Bekker and Danie Rossouw also featured in last year’s final Test against Ireland.
The bench includes six players who were part of the 2009 end-of-year tour to Europe — hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, prop Jannie du Plessis, lock Alistair Hargreaves, flanker Dewald Potgieter and centres Meyer Bosman and Juan de Jongh.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said he was satisfied with the selection, although they were somewhat restricted with the Bulls and the Stormers facing off in next weekend’s Super 14 final.
“We have had a few challenges with two of our sides in the Super 14 playoffs, but we have still been able to assemble a very talented squad,” De Villiers said.
“Nevertheless we have picked a few Bulls and Stormers players who we believe have earned their places through hard work and consistency.
“Gio and Francois, as well as Alistair and Bjorn impressed us during the Super 14 and it will be good for us to get a look at them at Test level.
“I have also been impressed in recent weeks with Chiliboy Ralepelle’s form and work rate. Chili was part of the squad through last season but battled with a few injury setbacks. He looks fit and strong at the moment.”
De Villiers added that the six foreign-based players in the squad had an opportunity to show the selectors how they might feature in the Boks’ long-term planning.
“All six of them are talented in their own right and four have them have played for the Boks in the last 12 months,” De Villiers said.
‘The Welsh are up for this one’
“Only Butch and Big Joe have not played since 2008 but they are both quality players who have been in good form for their clubs.”
The Springbok coach said he expected a tough Test in Cardiff.
“The Welsh are up for this one,” he said. “They have a strong squad with a few young guns who will be eager to prove themselves.
“With only a week to prepare for this Test we are going to structure our training sessions very carefully to make sure that we focus our attentions on the right areas, with defence being one of the most critical.
“There is also the fact that this team has not played together before, but we are not looking for excuses. We are accepting the challenge and it will be a great occasion.”
Springbok squad: Francois Steyn, Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Butch James, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar, Ricky Januarie, Joe van Niekerk , Dewald Potgieter, Francois Louw, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, BJ Botha, John Smit, CJ van der Linde. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Alistair Hargreaves, Ryan Kankowski, Meyer Bosman, Juan de Jongh, Bjorn Basson.