South Africa named experienced and versatile World Cup squad

Nine players from squad that won title in 2007 included in Heyneke Meyer’s 31

Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige is the only uncapped player in the South Africa squad for the World Cup. Photograph: Theo Karanikos/AFP/Getty Images

Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige is the only uncapped player in the South Africa squad for the World Cup. Photograph: Theo Karanikos/AFP/Getty Images

 

Several key South Africa players, including captain Jean de Villiers and Duane Vermeulen, have won their fitness battles and were named on Friday in the rugby World Cup squad.

Coach Heyneke Meyer has chosen an experienced group, including nine players from the squad that won the 2007 tournament in France.

Lock Victor Matfield and loose forward Schalk Burger will take part in their fourth World Cup, while De Villiers, working his way back from a fractured jaw, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, and brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, will play in their third.

Meyer did spring a surprise with the only uncapped player in his selection, scrumhalf Rudy Paige, who has not featured at all in his squads this year.

“Every single player in our wider group worked incredibly hard and to cut the squad to 31 was probably the most difficult selection I’ve faced in my coaching career,” Meyer said.

“In the end, the selectors decided the 31 players named were the best we have at the moment but that is not to say any of the others won’t have a role to play, with injuries a reality in our game.”

Meyer said at the forefront of his thinking was to take players who can feature in multiple positions.

“Because of the size of the squad, we also had to give more consideration to utility players, who can move around between positions, such as (hooker) Schalk Brits and (lock) Pieter-Steph du Toit, both of whom can play in the backrow, as well as (prop) Coenie Oosthuizen, who can pack down on both sides of the front row.

“A number of our backs, such as JP, Ruan, Pat Lambie, Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Lwazi Mvovo and Zane Kirchner, are all comfortable to play in more than one position.”

Meyer said having experience in the squad was also a key factor, especially when he could call on so many previous World Cup winners.

“A lot of our players featured in 2007 and 2011 and will know what it takes to succeed. There is a lot of talk about the permutations for the quarter-finals, but our aim is only on the first game.”

They meet Japan in Group B on September 19th, followed by Samoa (September 26th), Scotland (October 3rd) and the USA (October 7th).

Forwards (17): Willem Alberts, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen.

Backs (14): Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers (capt), Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Jesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn.

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