Springboks pick veterans for June internationals
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has named veteran forwards Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger in a 36-man squad for tests against Wales and Scotland this month.
Meyer picked seven uncapped players alongside the two 2007 World Cup winners, while Toulon lock Bakkies Botha, also a World Cup winner, and Saracens hooker Schalk Brits were given places in his early-season plans.
South Africa will go into its first tests of 2014 without captain Jean de Villiers, flyhalf Pat Lambie, center Jaque Fourie and lock Eben Etzebeth, who are all injured. The Springboks host a World XV, two tests against Wales and a one-off test against Scotland in the June international break.
Lock Matfield is in line to possibly captain the Springboks in the absence of de Villiers just a few months after returning to top-level rugby and reversing his decision to retire. The 37-year-old Matfield and 31-year-old flanker Burger haven’t played for South Africa since the 2011 World Cup.
The uncapped players picked by Meyer following Saturday’s Super Rugby games were center Damian de Allende, lock Lood de Jager, wing Cornal Hendricks, loose forward Teboho Mohoje, center S’bura Sithole, prop Marcel van der Merwe and hooker Callie Visagie.
The overseas-based players were Botha, Brits, scrumhalves Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar, wing Bryan Habana, fullback Zane Kirchner, flanker Francois Louw and prop Gurthro Steenkamp. Toulon flanker Juan Smith, another of South Africa’s group of veteran World Cup winners, was also close to winning a place in the squad after reviving his career in France, the South African Rugby Union said. Smith asked not to be considered for this squad.
South Africa plays the World XV on June 7, Wales on June 14 and 21 and Scotland on June 28.