Erasmus names exciting Bok training squad

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus named an exciting squad of 35 players for the team’s first official training camp of the season, which starts in Pretoria on Monday where the focus will be on the opening Test of the season against Wales on 22 June.

The Boks are in for a blockbuster 2024 season kicking off later this month against Wales in London. The squad includes 11 uncapped players and a cohort of players from the 2023 and 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squads.

The uncapped players in the squad are Jordan Hendrikse (the brother of Jaden Hendrikse), Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe, Morne van den Berg (all Emirates Lions players), Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku, Ethan Hooker (from the Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mgomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers), who were outstanding in their respective competitions this season.

Players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland will not be considered for the Boks’ first Test of the season against Wales at Twickenham. Players in contention from the Vodacom Bulls, who advanced to the semi-final of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, were also not considered for this squad.

The squad includes 19 forwards and 16 backs. Rugby World Cup-winning flyhalf Handre Pollard and No 8 Jasper Wiese (who is serving a six-week ban) have been named in the group and will be allowed to train with their team-mates, but will only be available for selection after the Wales Test.

Erasmus included a local contingent from the newly crowned EPCR Challenge Cup champions, the Hollywoodbets Sharks, and the Emirates Lions – whose Vodacom URC seasons came to a halt at the conclusion of the pool stages last weekend – as well as the DHL Stormers, who were knocked out of the competition earlier this evening against the Glasgow Warriors. Players plying their trade in Japan were also named in the squad.

The only players in the group who did not participate in either of the Springbok alignment sessions in March and May respectively, as well as the virtual alignment camp hosted early in May, are Hooker and Van der Merwe.

“We selected a group of players featuring a good mix of youth and experience, and in terms of the young players especially, we believe they have the potential to make the step-up to top international rugby,” said Erasmus.

“We’ve been following all their performances closely, we had the luxury of presenting our plans to them and getting to know them as individuals off the field at the alignment camps, and we are pleased with the enthusiasm they showed and willingness to learn.

“With the players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland not available for Wales, we anticipate that there will be a few players making their Test debuts in that match, but even for those who do not make the cut, having them in camp and getting the chance to work closely with them on the field will set them and the team in good stead as we prepare for this season and start laying the foundation for the 2027 World Cup in Australia.”

Erasmus added: “We gained immense value by granting a few players a chance to prove what they can do at international level in the last few years leading up to the 2023 World Cup. Some of the players who made their Test debuts in that time were members of the squad that lifted the trophy in Paris, and we feel it is important that we continue blooding new players as we build toward the future.

“As things stand, we have a bunch of young players that already have Test experience and who know exactly how we operate as a team and what is expected of them at this level, and we have no doubt that we will reap the rewards in the years to come as we continue to increase our squad depth.

“As always there are a few unlucky players who missed out on selection this time, but the door will always be open for them to be called up if the need arises.”

Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager and Jaden Hendrikse among a handful players were not considered for the squad due to injury.

The Wales Test will be followed by the Castle Lager Incoming Series which features back-to-back Tests against Ireland (ranked second in the world) in Pretoria and Durban respectively (on 6 and 13 July) and a historic first Test against Portugal in Bloemfontein on 20 July.

The Springboks will then turn their attention to the Castle Lager Rugby Championship where they will line up against Australia in Brisbane and Perth (on 10 and 17 August) before facing arch-rivals New Zealand on consecutive weekends in South Africa in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively (on 31 August and 7 September). They will then make a short trip to Argentina where they will face the Pumas in Santiago (on 21 September) and then in Nelspruit on 28 September.

This will be followed by the traditional year-end tour featuring Tests against Scotland in Edinburgh (9 November), England in London (16 November) and Wales in Cardiff (23 November).

Springbok training squad (in alphabetical order):

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon (both DHL Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Neethling Fouche (DHL Stormers), Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Blu Revs), Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Backs: Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Aphelele Fassi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Emirates Lions), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (DHL Stormers), Ethan Hooker (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Quan Horn (Emirates Lions), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku (both Hollywoodbets Sharks), Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers), Morne van den Berg (Emirates Lions), Edwill van der Merwe (Emirates Lions), Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks).

Issued by SA Rugby Communications

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of South African Rugby.

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