Matfield, Burger back in Springboks squad
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger are in the frame to play at their fourth Rugby World Cup after they were recalled Monday to South Africa’s squad following a three-year absence.
The veteran forwards, who both last played for their country at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, were part of a 36-man Springboks group named by coach Heyneke Meyer. Meyer will trim the squad at the end of the month ahead of a game against a World XV and tests against Wales and Scotland in June.
Openside flanker Heinrich Brussow also made the first squad of the season after being out of contention for three years, while Meyer picked eight uncapped players, including former sevens internationals Cornal Hendricks and S’bura Sithole. Overseas-based players weren’t considered for this squad with the exception of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.
The inclusion of Matfield and Burger were further indications that Meyer is prepared to give experienced campaigners a chance at playing at next year’s World Cup in England. Matfield and Burger both won the World Cup with the Boks in 2007, as did du Preez, who was again included by Meyer after being brought back last season.
Meyer said Matfield and Burger were “hungry for test rugby yet again” after their long absences.
“I know both of them can still add a lot of value to the team with the Rugby World Cup in 2015 looming,” Meyer said in a statement.
Second-rower Matfield is 37 and has played 110 tests for South Africa. He is in his comeback season in Super Rugby after reversing his decision to retire after the last World Cup. The 31-year-old Burger, who has 68 test caps, struggled with injury and illness over the past three years but the loose forward is getting regular game time in Super Rugby again. The pair’s last game for the Springboks was the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Australia.
Meyer was also able to include Eben Etzebeth in his pre-season plans after the big lock had surgery on a foot injury late last year. Flyhalf Johan Goosen returned to the national fold but No. 8 Pierre Spies, utility back Pat Lambie and center Jaque Fourie were out with injuries.
The uncapped players were wing Hendricks, center Sithole, lock Lood de Jager, loose forward Teboho Mohoje, prop Marcel van der Merwe, flanker Jacques du Plessis, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff and center Damian De Allende. The squad will gather for a training camp in Durban next week.
South Africa plays a World XV on June 7 and hosts two tests against Wales on June 14 and 21 and a one-off test against Scotland on June 28.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP