Springboks national coach Rassie Erasmus came up with several surprises when the 26 players gathered in Pretoria on Sunday as the Springboks continue with their preparations for the forthcoming international season.
Players from the Bulls and Sharks who took part in the weekend’s Super Rugby quarter-final matches, will join the camp from next Monday for the next installment of the national alignment and conditioning camps.
♦ Erasmus obviously cast his net as wide as possible. There are eleven players in the group who played their rugby overseas. Of this year’s Super Rugby players only Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies is a newcomer to the alignment camps. He is also the only local uncapped player on the present list with Elstadt the only one of the overseas players who is uncapped.
♦ Two unexpected names among those who had to report on Sunday are the Ulster and Springboks loose forward and Springbok Marcell Coetzee, who had an outstanding season for his club and didn’t seem to be on Erasmus’ radar and Springbok wing Dillyn Leyds, who has been in scintillating form for the Stormers as wing and also fullback.
A lesser surprise, perhaps, is Rynardt Elstadt, abrasive flank/lock from Toulouse. It has been known for some time that Erasmus was interested in the former Stormers forward.
♦ In addition to Elstadt and Coetzee, Erasmus will also work with nine overseas players at the camp. They are Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), Cobus Reinach (Northampton), Franco Mostert (Gloucester) and Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) who are all playing in England); Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse) and Frans Steyn Montpellier) from French clubs and Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) from Japan.
♦ Two of last year’s players who were first capped under Erasmus as coach last year and played in the first test against Wales in the USA, loose forward Kwagga Smith and lock Marvin Orie, both from the Lions, will also attend the camp.
The Springboks kick off their shortened Rugby Championship campaign against the Wallabies in Johannesburg on 20 July and that match will be followed a week later by the keenly awaited rematch with New Zealand in Wellington, the scene of last year’s epic away win over against the All Blacks.
The Boks conclude their official campaign against Argentina two weeks later, on 10 August in Salta, while the same two teams are set to meet again a week later in Pretoria in a once-off Test before the Boks report for Rugby World Cup training duty.
The following players will attend the Springbok alignment (in alphabetical order):
Schalk Brits (Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (Ulster, Ireland), Lood de Jager (Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), Rynardt Elstadt (Toulouse, France), Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), Beast Mtawarira (Sharks), Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), Marvin Orie (Lions), Kwagga Smith (Lions).
Damian de Allende (Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), Aphiwe Dyantyi (Lions), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Herschel Jantjies (Stormers), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), Dillyn Lleyds (Stormers), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, England), Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France).