Springboks announce 33-man squad to do battle at Rugby World Cup in France

Springboks announce 33-man squad to do battle at Rugby World Cup in France

The Springboks have named their 33-man squad set to defend the Rugby World Cup in France next month, with a few notable inclusions and omissions catching the eye.

The squad was unveiled during a glitzy live presentation at the Multichoice City in Randburg on Tuesday, exactly one month away from the start of the tournament on September 8.

While there weren't too many surprises in the 33-man list, a few notable selections - and absences - did catch the eye.

Injury rules out three key figures - for now

Bok fans hoping to see the inclusion of a fit-again Handre Pollard were left disappointed as it emerged the World Cup-winning flyhalf was not able to recover from a calf injury in time to take his place in the squad.

There were also a couple of other shock omissions, with centre Lukhanyo Am and lock Lood de Jager both ruled out through injury. Am suffered a knee injury in last weekend's match against Argentina which unfortunately turned out to be more serious than originally thought, while De Jager is dealing with a chest problem.

All three players - Pollard, Am and De Jager - have been placed on standby with six other players, and the Springbok coaches are hopeful they may return to full training before the start of the tournament and be available for call-up in the event of injury.

None of these absences are hammer blows, as the Springboks do have players who can step in and fill their shoes, but it's a bitter pill to swallow, both for Bok fans and for Pollard, Am and De Jager, all of whom played major roles in helping the Boks win the World Cup back in 2019.

Siya makes the cut

There was much better news for the Boks with the inclusion of World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi, who appears to have recovered from his ACL injury in time to be considered for selection. Exactly how much of a role Kolisi will be able to play in France remains to be seen, but his presence alone will be of great benefit to the team.

Other 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squad members returning to defend the title include Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi.

Making their first appearance at a Rugby World Cup are Ox Nche, Jean Kleyn, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Jasper Wiese, Deon Fourie, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams, Manie Libbok, Andre Esterhuizen, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.

In all, the squad comprises 19 forwards and 14 backline players - no surprise for a team named the Springboks.

A tough choice to make

Head coach Jacques Nienaber admitted that the coaches agonised over selecting the squad.

"This was one of the hardest selections we have ever had to make," he said.

"Any of the 42-man training squad would do a great job but injuries have played a part in the final selection and time unfortunately ran out for some real champions.

"However, we said from the outset that we wanted to name the best 33 players for the World Cup, and after giving 38 players a run in the last four Tests we are pleased with the make-up of the group and we know we have proper depth in each position.

"We've picked a squad with a bunch of the players who can also cover alternative positions, which we'll need in a very tough World Cup.

"We were in a great position this year to have so many players knocking on the door for selection but unfortunately, we could only select 33. Injuries have had a hand in the final selection, but they are part of the game, and we are excited about the quality of the players who can step in and perform at World Cup level - as many of the players who featured against Argentina showed last weekend."

The players unfortunate to miss out

The other six players placed on standby are Joseph Dweba, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Herschel Jantjies, Evan Roos and Gerhard Steenekamp, all of whom can consider themselves unlucky not to make the final cut.

Five of these players will be traveling with the Boks to Cardiff and London for their last two World Cup warm-up matches against Wales and New Zealand - Dweba, Du Toit, Du Preez, Pollard and Am.

Boks still have plenty of work to do

"Since Rassie (Erasmus - SA Rugby Director of Rugby) and I returned to South Africa in 2018 we've been building to the 2023 World Cup, and we are pleased with where we are, going into this World Cup," Nienaber added.

"The coaches and players have put in a helluva lot work in the last few years, and we have the luxury of naming a squad that features a big group of players who know what it takes to win a World Cup and who will enter the tournament with vast international experience.

"The younger players have also showed in the last two seasons that they can match some of the top players in the world, so we believe we are better prepared as a team going into this tournament.

"We still have two warm-up games left and a road to travel to build player combinations and fine tune the areas of our game that we feel we need to improve on, so we are by no means the final product at this stage."

South Africa will launch their Rugby World Cup title defence on Sunday, 10 September, against Scotland in Marseille.

2023 Springbok Rugby World Cup squad

Forwards: Marco van Staden, Jasper Wiese, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Jean Kleyn, Vincent Koch, Ox Nche, Kwagga Smith, Deon Fourie, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi.

Backs: Andre Esterhuizen, Canan Moodie, Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe, Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse, Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Jaden Hendrikse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Grant Williams, Cobus Reinach, Damian de Allende, Willie le Roux.

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