The Springbok selectors have announced a match 22 boasting a total of 531 test caps for the test against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, 5 June. The starting XV for the one-off clash at the Millennium Stadium includes two new caps with one new selection on the bench.
The inclusion of newcomers Vodacom Stormers wing Gio Aplon and flanker Francois Louw in the run on XV and Vodacom Cheetahs wing Bjorn Basson on the bench is due recognition for their consistently good performances during the 2010 Vodacom Super 14 tournament.
Aplon, a Springbok in the Sevens code has been one of the stand-out backline players during the Super 14 and also offers an option at fullback. Louw has been crucial to the Stormers success at the breakdown this season combining his size with good technique to dominate in this area. Basson, who played for the Emerging Springboks against the British & Irish Lions in 2009, is rewarded for some strong performances for the Cheetahs during the last few rounds of the Super 14.
The squad was announced by SARU President Oregan Hoskins from Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday.
The starting XV includes six overseas-based Springboks – fullback Frans Steyn, centres Jean de Villiers – last year’s Stormers captain – and Butch James, former Stormers number eight Joe van Niekerk and props BJ Botha and CJ van der Linde.
De Villiers, Botha and van der Linde all featured in the Boks’ final test of 2009 against Ireland at Croke Park in November. Steyn last played for the Springboks in the Vodacom Tri-Nations decider in Hamilton last August whilst 2007 World Cup flyhalf James and van Niekerk last represented South Africa in tests against Australia in August 2008.
Van der Linde will play at loosehead and Botha at tighthead with Bok captain John Smit at hooker, where he finished the 2009 season against Ireland.
The selection also sees Ruan Pienaar start his first test at flyhalf since the Tri-Nations clash with the All Blacks in Bloemfontein in July last year. Pienaar’s halfback partner Ricky Januarie, who has been a regular squad member over the past few years, will start his first test since the record win over England at Twickenham in London at the end of 2008.
Bulls’ flanker Dewald Potgieter, who earned his debut Test cap from the bench against Ireland last year, gets his first test start at blindside flank with regular Juan Smith unavailable for personal reasons. The experienced lock pairing of Andries Bekker and Danie Rossouw also featured in last year’s final test against Ireland.
The bench includes six players who were part of the 2009 end-of-year tour to Europe – hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, prop Jannie du Plessis, lock Alistair Hargreaves, flanker Dewald Potgieter and centres Meyer Bosman and another Stormers in Juan de Jongh.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said he was satisfied with the selection.
“We have had a few challenges with two of our sides in the Super 14 playoffs but we have still being able to assemble a very talented squad,” he said. “Nevertheless we have picked a few Bulls and Stormers players who we believe have earned their places through hard work and consistency.
“Gio and Francois, as well as Alistair and Bjorn impressed us during the Super 14 and it will be good for us to get a look at them at test level. I have also been impressed in recent weeks with Chiliboy Ralepelle’s form and work rate. Chili was part of the squad through last season but battled with a few injury setbacks. He looks fit and strong at the moment”.
De Villiers added that the six foreign-based players in the squad had an opportunity to show the selectors how they might feature in the Boks’ longer-term planning.
“All six of them are talented in their own right and four have them have played for the Boks in the last 12 months. Only Butch and Big Joe have not played since 2008 but they are both quality players who have been in good form for their clubs.
“Butch offers versatility in that he can play at flyhalf and he brings a physical edge to the defence, which we will need against Wales. Joe has been one of the top loose forwards in France for the past two seasons and in our discussions with him recently he has said he is raring to go. He is an athletic number eight who carries the ball well which complements the other two players in the back row”.
The Springbok coach said he expected a tough test in Cardiff.
“The Welsh are up for this one,” he said. “They have a strong squad with a few young guns who will be eager to prove themselves.
“With only a week to prepare for this test we are going to structure our training sessions very carefully to make sure that we focus our attentions on the right areas, with defence being one of the most critical. There is also the fact that this team has not played together before but we are not looking for excuses, we are accepting the challenge and it will be a great occasion,” de Villiers said.
Springboks vs Wales – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Saturday 5 June, 2010
15 Francois Steyn (Racing Metro) – 36 caps
14 Gio Aplon (Vodacom Stormers) – uncapped
13 Jean de Villiers (Munster) – 55 caps
12 Butch James (Bath) – 35 caps
11 Odwa Ndungane (Sharks) – 6 caps
10 Ruan Pienaar (Sharks) – 36 caps
9 Ricky Januarie (Vodacom Stormers) – 40 caps
8 Joe van Niekerk (Toulon) – 51 caps
7 Dewald Potgieter (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap
6 Francois Louw (Vodacom Stormers) – uncapped
5 Andries Bekker (Vodacom Stormers) – 21 caps
4 Danie Rossouw (Vodacom Bulls) – 46 caps
3 BJ Botha (Ulster) – 19 caps
2 John Smit (Sharks, Capt) – 93 caps
1 CJ van der Linde (Leinster) – 58 caps
16 Chiliboy Ralepelle (Vodacom Bulls) – 8 caps
17 Jannie du Plessis (Sharks) – 12 caps
18 Alistair Hargreaves (Sharks) – uncapped
19 Ryan Kankowski (Sharks) – 11 caps
20 Meyer Bosman (Vodacom Cheetahs) – 3 caps
21 Juan de Jongh (Vodacom Stormers) – uncapped
22 Bjorn Basson (Vodacom Cheetahs) – uncapped