The Springboks will travel to the Northern Hemisphere next weekend with five uncapped players but without their all-time leading try-scorer and most experienced player, Bryan Habana.
Habana was the latest key player to be added to a long injury list when he sustained a knee injury in Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup final. Scans on Sunday confirmed he will miss the tour of Ireland, Scotland and England.
South Africa Under-20 winger Raymond Rhule, who was part of the squad that won the IRB Junior World Championship in Cape Town earlier this year and who has shone for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in the Absa Currie Cup, was named in the squad along with uncapped Jano Vermaak, Franco van der Merwe, Lionel Mapoe and Arno Botha.
Of the five, only the 19-year-old Rhule has not been part of a Springbok squad yet this year, but his inclusion forms part of Meyer’s plan to blood promising youngster for the future.
Rhule is one of five wing options with the fit-again JP Pietersen, Francois Hougaard, Lwazi Mvovo and Mapoe. Pietersen, Rhule and Mapoe can also be used at centre, while Hougaard can also play at scrumhalf.
Two Springboks currently based in Europe, Schalk Brits (hooker) and Gurthrö Steenkamp (loosehead prop), have also been recalled to the national squad. Due to the significant injury toll, the national selectors will only decide on a 32nd player to be added to the squad at a later stage.
Two Springboks who missed the entire Castle Rugby Championship because of injury, Pietersen and Chiliboy Ralepelle, are back in the squad.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, whose squad assembles in Cape Town on Wednesday, said it was not easy to select the squad in the light of the high number of players unavailable due to injury.
Injured players that had been part of the Springbok squad thus far this year, but were not considered for selection, are Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Tiaan Liebenberg, Andries Bekker, Siya Kolisi, Jacques Potgieter, Pierre Spies, Johan Goosen, Frans Steyn and Habana. Furthermore, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brüssow are still out injured.
“We’ve got a settled core of players that did the job during the England series and The Castle Rugby Championship and we decided to stick with them,” said Meyer.
“Obviously losing so many players to injury, the latest being Coenie, Tiaan, Andries, Jacques and Bryan during the Absa Currie Cup, makes it difficult, but this now provides opportunities for other players.
“Gurthrö and Schalk are experienced front rankers who have played for South Africa before and know the conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. This tour provides a good opportunity to assess them as we plan ahead. Arno, Lionel, Franco and Jano have all been part of our squad earlier in the season.
“Raymond put up his hand for the Junior Boks and the Cheetahs and I’m very excited to see what he can do. It’s also great to have JP and Chiliboy back from injury as they bring a lot of experience to the squad.”
Meyer said he expected three extremely difficult Tests: “Although the Springboks won on their last visit to Dublin (in 2010), they lost three in a row before that,” he said.
“In 2010, we lost to Scotland in Edinburgh. They beat the Wallabies in Australia earlier in the year, so it won’t be easy there.
“And in June we’ve experienced first-hand how difficult and opponent England are. They will be fired up at Twickenham and it will be a challenging Test to end the tour with.
“Our aim is to end the season on a positive note. We set ourselves high standards and we want to improve with every Test, but we have a team that is still gaining valuable experience as we strive to constantly be amongst the top sides in the world. We know we’re not there yet, but we’ve laid a foundation in the first nine Tests this year and we will build on that.
“The Rugby World Cup in 2015 also takes place in England, so we will use this tour to see how our players adapt to the conditions as we look ahead to that very important tournament.”
The Springbok squad will assemble in Cape Town on Wednesday and depart to the UK from Johannesburg on Saturday. They will return to South Africa on Monday, 26 November.
The Springbok squad for the Castle Outgoing Tour to Ireland, Scotland and England:
Willem Alberts (The Sharks) - Loose forward, 17 Tests
Arno Botha (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Loose forward, 0
Schalk Brits (Saracens, England) - Hooker, 3
Pat Cilliers (MTN Golden Lions) - Prop, 3
Marcell Coetzee (The Sharks) - Loose forward, 9
Juan de Jongh (DHL Western Province) - Centre, 12
Jean de Villiers (captain, DHL Western Province) - Centre, 81
Jannie du Plessis (The Sharks) - Prop, 39
Eben Etzebeth (DHL Western Province) - Lock, 8
Francois Hougaard (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Scrumhalf / Wing, 24
Elton Jantjies (MTN Golden Lions) - Flyhalf, 2
Zane Kirchner (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Fullback, 21
Juandré Kruger (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Lock , 5
Pat Lambie (The Sharks) - Fullback / Flyhalf, 17
Francois Louw (Bath, England) - Loose forward, 14
Lionel Mapoe (MTN Golden Lions) - Wing / Centre, 0
Tendai Mtawarira (The Sharks) - Prop, 41
Lwazi Mvovo (The Sharks) - Wing, 7
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, N Ireland) - Scrumhalf, 60
JP Pietersen (The Sharks) - Wing / Centre, 45
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Hooker, 21
Raymond Rhule (Toyota FS Cheetahs) - Wing, 0
Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse, France) - Prop, 38
Morné Steyn (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Flyhalf, 41
Adriaan Strauss (Toyota FS Cheetahs) - Hooker, 18
Jaco Taute (MTN Golden Lions) - Utility back, 2
CJ van der Linde (MTN Golden Lions) - Prop, 73
Flip van der Merwe (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Lock, 20
Franco van der Merwe (MTN Golden Lions) - Lock, 0
Jano Vermaak (Vodacom Blue Bulls) - Scrumhalf, 0
Duane Vermeulen (DHL Western Province) - No 8, 4