Earl Rose was a shock inclusion on Saturday as the only specialist flyhalf in the Springbok team for its three-Test tour to the United Kingdom where they come up against Wales on a fortnight’s time.
Rose is one of two caps, with Free State’s Heinrich Brussow getting the nod as flank, in a belated admission from Springbok coach Peter de Villiers that there is, after all, place for a fetcher in the pack.
With Butch James not considered because of his commitment to his club side Bath, it was generally expected that Peter Grant would have been given the nod as his successor. But the Western Province pivot’s shares have seemingly plummeted and he is obviously not in De Villiers’ future plans.
“Ruan Pienaar is earmarked for the No 10 jersey as I’m looking to find a long-term successor to Butch James, following his decision to retire after the Lions tour next year,” said De Villiers in a statement.
“We decided against selecting players from overseas on this occasion as we know they can slot in at any time but we felt that the time is right to give players like Ruan an opportunity at flyhalf.”
There was also no place for Jannie du Plessis as tighthead – and that was explained by De Villiers who said he will be trying John Smit in this position on tour. Smit has also been appointed captain.
Gurthro Steenkamp, Brian Mujati and Tendai Mtawarira are the other three props in the group. Chiliboy Ralepelle is a surprise as the second hooker now that Smit is being earmarked as a prop.
His is indeed a surprising selection after his limited opportunities since injury and considering he could not make the Blue Bulls’ bench regularly. What Adriaan Strauss has done to miss out after good Test performances and some inspiring play in the Currie Cup only the selectors will know.
Brussow comes in for controversial flanker Luke Watson who made himself unavailable after his utterances two weeks ago. His form probably would have seen him stay at home anyway.
Two World Cup players who have seen little action lately make a welcome return, with Bakkies Botha joining his two Blue Bulls lock mates Victor Matfield and Danie Rossouw after a lengthy lay-off because of injury.
Jaque Fourie had a few outings for the Lions without really impressing, but such is his stature and quality that his inclusion was expected.
Blue Bulls centre Wynand Olivier is also unlucky to be overlooked.
There are 12 players of colour in the side – eight of them backs and four forwards. The squad consists of 28 players of whom 13 are backs and 17 forwards.
De Villiers praised the form of the two new newcomers to the squad for their outstanding form in the Absa Currie Cup.
“Both Earl and Heinrich really put their hands up in the Absa Currie Cup,” said 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.
The squad will assemble in Cape Town at 2pm on Tuesday and depart for the UK on Friday where they will play Wales on November 8, Scotland the following Saturday and England on November 22.
The squad is: Backs: Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Adrian Jacobs, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Odwa Ndungane, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Earl Rose, Frans Steyn.
Forwards: Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Heinrich Brussow, Bismarck du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Victor Matfield, Brian Mujati, Beast Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (capt), Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gurthro Steenkamp.