Peter de Villiers on Monday will welcome back his four World Cup-winning stars from abroad, but as an added bonus one of them will return as a winner on the European stage.
Rugby 365 and SAPA report that there is a real buzz at the Springboks’ Somerset West training camp, because Monday will see World Cup heroes John Smit, Percy Montgomery, Victor Matfield and Butch James arrive from their respective European clubs.
It is James who will be on the biggest high, after winning the European Challenge Cup with Bath – who beat the Worcester Warriors 24-16 in the ECC Final at Kingsholm, Gloucester, on Sunday.
James has been an inspiration to Bath this season, who lost out on a place in the Guinness Premiership Final when they went down to Wasps last week.
But James helped Bath end a 10-year trophy drought as they lifted the European Challenge Cup at the third attempt at a soggy Kingsholm on Sunday.
While the Springbok captain, Smit, and the fullback, Montgomery, will only be available for the two Tests against Wales – before returning to their respective French clubs, Clermont and Perpignan – James and Matfield will both be around for the Italy Test at Newlands later in June.
The Boks face Wales in Bloemfontein on June 7 – just two weeks from now – and in Pretoria a week later. The Test against Italy is on June 21.
James have now completed his club commitments in England and won’t be required at Bath till at least August, while Matfield has rejoined the Blue Bulls in Pretoria after six months with French Second Division outfit Toulon.
Their availability for all three mid-year internationals will be a huge boost, while Smit and Montgomery will also be back for the Tri-Nations series that start in July.
The Bok training camp in Somerset West was a hive of activity comings at the weekend.
On Saturday Heini Adams, Jaque Fourie, Zane Kirchner, Fourie du Preez, Wikus van Heerden and Duanne Vermeulen all returned home where they will continue the rehabilitation process to mend their injuries.
Schalk Burger, who lives fairly nearby to where the Springboks are based, will travel with the squad to Bloemfontein for the June 7 Test as a spectator.
On Monday, arrangements are in place for the Sharks players, whose names will only be made public on the same day, to join the training squad at Somerset West.
On-field training will resume on Monday when two sessions will be held and then new Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir will make his debut at the team’s camp in Somerset West.
Chris Hewitt, the Springbok media liaison officer, said that the injury to Vermeulen was the one that was most disconcerting for the management staff.
The loose forward has sustained a disc lesion in the neck.
“It is expected that of all the injured players Vermeulen may be out the longest,” said Hewitt.
“His injury is similar to what Schalk Burger had in 2006.
“It’s still not exactly sure what the damage is, and whether he may require surgery.”
The Springboks will remain in Somerset West until next Sunday, when they will depart to set up a camp in Bloemfontein, the host centre for the first Test against Wales.Tweet