Bok coach Peter de Villiers on Monday axed five players from the squad that beat Wales 34-31 at the weekend, when he named a 27-man squad for the remainder of the June internationals.
Rugby 365 editor Jan De Koning writes that those out include overseas-based stars Frans Steyn and Joe van Niekerk, along with the injured wing Odwa Ndungane, unused Cheetahs utility back Meyer Bosman and prop CJ van der Linde – the latter back with the Cheetahs for the Currie Cup season.
However, the headlines will be grabbed by the retention of James and the inclusion of uncapped Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe.
James’ retention comes after he was named and dropped from the Bok team three times last week – the result of a stand-off over his availability between the Bok camp and Premier Rugby, the umbrella body in charge of the 12 Premiership clubs in England.
James is contracted to Bath till 2012.
The only other overseas-based player retained by the Bok coach is prop BJ Botha.
Bok team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed that Ndungane picked up a rib injury in the win over the Welsh – the result of a spiteful knee while he went over to score the team’s first try just before the half-time break. Ndungane will undergo further scans to assess the damage, but is not available this week.
Lock Andries Bekker, who flew back from France early, is still struggling to overcome his foot and lower back injuries – the latter the more serious of the two – and will be closely monitored in the course of the week. His availability will be re-assessed ahead of the first Test against Italy in Witbank on June 19.
As was reported last week ace scrumhalf Fourie du Preez faces shoulder surgery. It was confirmed on Monday that he will go under the knife on Tuesday to repair the rotor-cuff damage and will be sidelined for six months.
Centre Jean de Villiers, who was named in the squad on Monday, is in a race against time to be fit for Saturday’s Test against France. He is struggling with an AC-joint shoulder injury.
Flank Dewald Potgieter, one of the stars of the win over the Welsh, is carrying a rib cartilage injury that he suffered in the Super 14 Final. However, having played through the pain barrier in Cardiff he is not considered doubtful.
The inclusion of Van der Merwe, one of the young up-and-coming stars in South African rugby, is one of nine players joining the Bok camp in Cape Town.
Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Pierre Spies, Zane Kirchner, Gurthrö Steenkamp and Wynand Olivier are the established Boks who return to the fray this week, while Jean de Villiers is also part of the build-up to the French Test and will be assessed this week.
Bakkies Botha has been named in the 27-man squad, but must serve the last week of his ban and will only be available to face Italy.
South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Gio Aplon, Bjorn Basson, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Wynand Olivier, Juan de Jongh, Butch James, Morné Steyn, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Ricky Januarie, Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski, Dewald Potgieter, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Bakkies Botha, Flip van der Merwe, Danie Rossouw, Victor Matfield, Alistair Hargreaves, BJ Botha, John Smit (captain), Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Gurthrö Steenkamp.Tweet