Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber had the luxury of naming a group of 33 players for their second preparation camp in Durban from Monday to Wednesday, which included three Vodacom Bulls players in Marco van Stade, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie as well as 10 players who featured in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final in Cape Town on Saturday evening, and a host of overseas-based players.
The squad is more than double the size of the training squad that participated in the first preparation camp in Durban a little over a week ago, as a number of players completed their club commitments in Japan, while several DHL Stormers players as well as lock RG Snyman (Munster) and loose forward Duane Vermeulen (Ulster) wrapped up their Vodacom URC campaigns.
All 33 players have been part of the national squad in the last two seasons and, similarly to the last camp, a handful of injured players, including Springbok captain and flanker Siya Kolisi, lock Eben Etzebeth, scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and prop Thomas du Toit, were included in the squad where the Bok medical team will continue to monitor their progress and oversee their rehabilitation.
The nine DHL Stormers players invited include experienced props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff, utility back Damian Willemse, flyhalf Manie Libbok and utility forward Deon Fourie, while the contingent of Japanese players consists of hooker Malcolm Marx, loose forward Kwagga Smith, lock Lood de Jager, utility forward Franco Smith and centre Damian de Allende.
“We are delighted to have a quality training squad at this camp. The squad size will allow us to have productive on-field training sessions without having to rotate and manage players too much,” said Nienaber.
“We had a strong core of the players at the last preparation camp, and we intend to build on the foundation we laid there when we assemble in Durban, and I believe this will set us in good stead going into the Castle Lager Rugby Championship camp in Pretoria next month.
“This will mark the first time most of the players will be in the national set-up this season, as the alignment camps in Cape Town and Stellenbosch and the last preparation camp in Durban included mainly the locally based players. We did, however, have online alignment sessions with the overseas based players, so we are excited about this opportunity to work with them in person.”
The Boks will begin their preparations for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship at a training camp in Pretoria from Monday 12 to Friday 30 June, with the team slotting into match mode the following week for their opening match against Australia at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, 8 July.
Nienaber’s charges will then depart for New Zealand for their second Test of the condensed version of the competition against the All Blacks at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland (15 July), before returning to South Africa for their closing match against Argentina in Johannesburg (29 July).
The Springboks will play three Rugby World Cup warm-up matches: against Argentina in Buenos Aires (Saturday, 5 August), Wales in Cardiff (Saturday, 19 August) and New Zealand in London (Friday, 25 August) respectively.
They will then make their way to France for the international extravaganza where they face Scotland in Marseille (Sunday, 10 September), Romania in Bordeaux (Sunday, 17 September), Ireland in Paris (Saturday, 23 September) and Tonga in Marseille (Sunday, 1 October) during the pool stages.
Springbok training squad:
Props: Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks), Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks).
Hookers: Joseph Dweba (DHL Stormers), Malcom Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks).
Locks: Lood de Jager (Wild Knights), Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks), Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers), RG Snyman (Munster).
Loose forwards: Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Siya Kolisi (Cell C Sharks), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Ulster).
Utility Forwards: Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat).
Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks), Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier), Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks).
Flyhalves: Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers).
Centres: Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), Damian de Allende (Wild Knights), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles).
Outside Backs: Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls).