No surprises in World Cup Bok squad

Former Stormers flanker Francois Louw, who has not played a Test in more than a year, was included in South Africa’s 30-man squad for next month’s Rugby World Cup.

Louw, who signed a three-year deal with English club Bath in July, has not played a Test since he turned out against New Zealand in Soweto in August last year, but was called up as cover for premier fetcher Heinrich Brussow.

The Bok group features 18 members of the 2007 World Cup winning squad and will be captained by regular skipper John Smit.

“The squad has a backbone of proven title-winning ability and experience as well as a strong component of new stars,” said Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.

“Injury has denied us one or two players who could have been very important to us, but I am very happy with the squad we have picked.”

A few players will be disappointed not to have been included, although the squad features no real surprises.

Topping the list of notable absentees is Cheetahs flank Ashley Johnson who impressed in the Springboks’ 18-5 victory over the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth last week.

Of those included, only lock Johann Muller, stalwart Schalk Burger and Louw did not feature in the 2011 Tri-Nations due to injury.

Smit is one of six players who have featured in two previous World Cup tournaments.

De Villiers opted for a split of 16 forwards and 14 backs in an experienced squad that boasts an average of 40 caps per player.

“This squad has the experience and ability to make a strong challenge for the title, but we know it will be very difficult,” De Villiers said.

“It has been a tough season to date and we have had some challenges with the amount of rugby the players have had to play, but I’m very happy with the squad.

“We are on target with the off-field plans we set in place before the season started.”

One of the biggest setbacks to the team’s aspirations was the withdrawal of flanker Juan Smith who announced his unavailability last week with an Achilles injury.

The Springboks depart for New Zealand on September 1 after a public farewell from Sandton Square in Johannesburg.

They play their first Pool D match against Wales on September 11 in Wellington.

Springbok Squad: Willem Alberts, Gio Aplon, Bakkies Botha, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Butch James, Pat Lambie, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Johann Muller, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, John Smit, Pierre Spies, Gurthro Steenkamp, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, CJ van der Linde.—Sapa

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