True to tradition coach Peter de Villiers sprang a massive surprise on Saturday night by including Earl Rose in the Springbok side to tour Wales, Scotland and England during November.
Dan Retief reports that the Lions flyhalf and Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Brüssow were the only uncapped players named by De Villiers in the Springbok end-of-year touring squad.
Brüssow (22) and Rose (24) were named among 28 players for the internationals against Wales (November 8), Scotland (November 15) and England (November 22).
After an indifferent end to the Currie Cup season, during which he was moved to fullback for the Lions’ semi-final against the Sharks, it was generally believed Rose had spoilt his claim to selection and great was the surprise when the team was read out on SuperSport on Saturday night.
Judging by De Villiers’ comments Rose is being groomed as the understudy for Ruan Pienaar.
“We have named what we believe is the strongest squad,” said De Villiers. “It has been selected from the players we used during the Vodacom Tri-Nations as well as the form players in the Absa Currie Cup.
“With the British & Irish Lions heading to South Africa in a just a few months these tests are as important as any we have undertaken since our re-admission in 1992.
“Both Earl and Heinrich really put their hands up in the Absa Currie Cup,” added de Villiers. “Earl’s form may have dipped at times but he has the ‘X factor’ you look for in a flyhalf and has time to develop while Heinrich has really burst onto the scene and is outstanding at contesting at the breakdown.
“Ruan Pienaar is earmarked for the No10 jersey as I’m looking to find a long-term successor to Butch James, following his decision to retire following the Lions tour next year.
“We decided against selecting players from overseas on this occasion as they we know they can slot in at any time but we felt that the time is right to give players like Ruan an opportunity in the No10 jersey and we will be looking at John (Smit) as a tighthead on this tour.”
The latter remark is telling for if the team has a weakness it is that Brian Mujati is the only specialist tighthead in the squad. Smit however played much of his under 21 rugby at prop before being switched to hooker by Jake White.
De Villiers recalled four players from injuries of varying length: centre Jaque Fourie, No8 Ryan Kankowski, lock Bakkies Botha as well as hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle who was rewarded for his long battle to regain fitness with a recall for the first time since 2006.
Brüssow, with Luke Watson having eliminated himself, jumped to the head of a queue of excellent fetcher flanks that included Cobus Grobbelaar of the Lions, Jacques Botes of the Sharks and Deon Stegmann of the Bulls.
The squad will assemble in Cape Town at 2pm on Tuesday, October 28 and depart for the UK on Friday, October 31.
The Springbok touring side is:
Jean de Villiers (WP), Fourie du Preez (Blue Bulls), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Bryan Habana (Blue Bulls), Adrian Jacobs (Sharks), Conrad Jantjes (WP), Enrico Januarie (WP), Jongi Nokwe (Cheetahs), Odwa Ndungane (Sharks), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Earl Rose (Lions), Francois Steyn (Sharks).
Andries Bekker (WP), Bakkies Botha (Blue Bulls), Schalk Burger (WP), Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Blue Bulls), Brian Mujati (WP), Danie Rossouw (Blue Bulls), John Smit (Sharks, captain), Juan Smith (Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Blue Bulls), Gurthrö Steenkamp (Blue Bulls).
Peter Grant (WP), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Johann Muller (Sharks), Wynand Olivier (Blue Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Heinke van der Merwe (Lions), Jano Vermaak (Lions).Tweet