South Africa captain Jean de Villiers has recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the June tests against Wales and Scotland and was back in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship.
Centre De Villiers was one of six players returning from injury – Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Frans Malherbe (prop), Eben Etzebeth (lock), Patrick Lambie (flyhalf/fullback) and Damian de Allende (centre) – being the others.
Stormers midfielder De Allende, who was forced to withdraw from the squad in June because of a knee ligament injury, and Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach are the only two uncapped players in the 30-man squad.
De Villiers will regain the captaincy that was temporarily handed to veteran lock Victor Matfield and young centre Jan Serfontein in his absence.
“It’s great to have Jean back to lead the side,” coach Heyneke Meyer said in press release issued by the South Africa Rugby Union on Saturday.
“Victor Matfield and Jan Serfontein both did superbly well in his absence, but he is our captain and I’m sure he will slot back into the side without any difficulty.
“The same goes for Eben, Frans and Patrick, all of whom have been part of the squad before.”
Also included in the squad was 20-year-old flyhalf Handre Pollard, the current International Rugby Board junior player of the year, who impressed on debut against Scotland in June.
Two senior Springboks who will play in Japan in the coming months, JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger, were not considered for the start of the competition.
“Obviously the squad can change during the course of the Rugby Championship and although JP and Schalk were not considered at this stage, they could still feature later in the competition,” Meyer added.
Locks Flip van der Merwe (knee) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee), loose-forwards Arno Botha (knee) and Pierre Spies (bicep), scrumhalf Fourie du Preez (ankle) and centre Jaque Fourie (ankle) had all featured in 2013 or earlier in the year for the Boks but were not available due to injuries.
The Boks begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Pretoria on August 16. They also play Australia and New Zealand home and away.
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Lodewyk de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen
Backs: Damian De Allende, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn – Reuters