South Africa’s Preliminary World Cup Squad

Pieter de Villiers has announced a 49 man training squad for the World Cup, including several uncapped players: Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger and Coenie Oosthuizen, fly-half Elton Jantjies, and back-rowers Ashley Johnson and Duane Vermeulen.

First up, it is important to acknowledge when discussing the South African World Cup squad that in terms of depth, no other nation possesses the same amount of quality. Aiming to become the first team to ever win the World Cup three times, whatever side Peter de Villiers puts out, perhaps will never measure up to the stellar team of 2007.

South Africa in 2007 were a team at their peak, they had the youthful exuberance of Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen and the du Plessis brothers Bismarck and Jannie moulded together with experienced heads like John Smit, Percy Montgomery, Bob Skinstad and Victor Matfield. Many of the side that defeated England in the Stade de France to lift the trophy in 2007 remain in contention for this year’s tournament, but are not the force of yesteryear.

Smit’s continuation of the side as captain is questionable, whilst in this year’s Super Rugby competition the best lineout pairing of the last five years in Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield have been blunted, as much by age as their diminishing presence on the rugby field. In fact, the appalling form of the Blue Bulls all season has cast an ominous shadow over South Africa’s preparations for the World Cup.

Morne Steyn has been off colour, along with Wynand Olivier, Danie Roussouw and Gurthro Steenkamp, though the latter has suffered from persistent injuries throughout this year’s campaign. Lingering doubts remain over the scrum-half, number eight and back row positions, but unlike other countries, this is where the Springboks incredible pool of talent shines through.

They have world class centers in Juan de Jongh, Jaque Fourie and Jean de Villiers (all from the Stormers), and in the back three Bryan Habana may not be as lethal as four years ago, but no one works harder on the wing than him. Combine his experience with the lightning pace of Gio Aplon, and one of JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo, Bjorn Basson or Gerhard Van Der Heever, and you have a menacing back three. The back-row also has a quantity of talent to make every other nation go green eyed. Top players like Ashley Johnson, Keegan Daniel, Joshua Strauss and Duane Vermuelen would walk into other national sides, yet they are no were near the standard of Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Ryan Kankowski.

Given Ruan Pienaar’s absence from South African rugby, churning out match-winning performance after match-winning performance for Ulster in the Celtic League and Heineken Cup, no scrum-half has seriously put their hand up. Ricky Januarie is too old, Dewald Duvenhage too young, Fourie Du Preez a ghost of his former self. Except Sarel Pretorious from the Cheetahs, who bizarrely hasn’t made the squad.

South Africa’s Preliminary Rugby World Cup Squad:

Forwards: John Smit (captain), Willem Alberts, Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, BJ Botha, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Dean Greyling, Alistair Hargreaves, Ashley Johnson, Ryan Kankowski, Werner Kruger, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Johann Muller, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gurthro Steenkamp, Deon Stegmann, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen.

Backs: Gio Aplon, Bjorn Basson, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Adrian Jacobs, Butch James, Elton Jantjies, Ricky Januarie, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn.

Here would be my team for South Africa’s first game in New Zealand against Wales:

1. Gurthro Steenkamp
2. Bismarck du Plessis
3. Jannie du Plessis
4. Bakkies Botha
5. Victor Matfield (c)
6. Schalk Burger
7. Juan Smith
8. Ryan Kankowski
9. Ruan Pienaar
10. Patrick Lambie
11. Bryan Habana
12. Jean de Villiers
13. Jaque Fourie
14. Gio Aplon
15. Francois Steyn

by Ben Coles

9 thoughts on “South Africa’s Preliminary World Cup Squad

  1. And yet still no room for Schalk Brits, I know there’s a bit of strength in SA hookers, but he’s been quality all season for Sarries.

  2. Brits has always been ignored by the Bok selectors, which is one of the reasons he left for Europe in the first place. His being overseas obviously hasn’t helped his cause, despite him being outstanding. Div is a big fan of Smit, and Bismarck du Plessis is superb.

  3. Sarel Pretorius has been brilliant all S15 season. Great service, ridiculous support play, gas, scores tries for fun. I guess de Villiers doesn’t feel he has to look any further than Pienaar and du Preez at 9.

      1. alternatively I would say 8 – Willem Alberts or Duane Vermeulen
        9 – Charl McCleod or Sarel Pretorius
        10 – Butch James or Patric Lambie

        Ryan Kankowski has not done anything great this year, and is not in the same class as Vermeuen and Alberts. Still think Pierre Spies (even though he had a terrible year or so) is a better player in the tight, world-cup-like games. Anyone saying Fourie du Preez is not the best scrumhalf in world rugby is, well, for lack of a better word, ‘doff’! Charl brings nothing ‘special’ to the table, but provides quick ball constantly and does the basics very well, where Sarel is a ‘gamebreaker’, who, on attack can start something from anything. But for all the breaks, try-assists and tries he has made/scored this year, there has been a few instances where his defence has been exposed, and in international or world-cup-games, no team can afford a player who’s defence is leaky… People tend to forget that Morne Steyn basically won the British lions game 2 for us after Ruan Pienaar was less-than convincing, and it was his first test (if i’m not mistaken). He personifies BMT and is exactly what you need in the crucial world cup games! Butch is a world cup winner, and is a rock in defence. need I say more. Them Patric Lambie, who is scarry-talented, but is still very young and even though he has shown he has BMT, I don’t think the pressure he has experienced so far can be compared to the pressure which will be felt in finals rugby… (remember Derick Hougaard in 2003…)

        1. Pretorious would have been my pick at scrum-half, no doubt. Spies has done nothing for two years. He’s a shadow of the player he used to be.

          Pienaar’s place-kicking for Ulster this season has been exceptional, he’s won countless matches in the 80th minute with pressure penalty kicks and drop goals. This then takes the heat of Lambie, who can flourish in the 10 role. He’s so unpredictable and new to the world stage that defences won’t have a clue how to stop him. Steyn was sensational in 2009 but is simply not in good enough form.

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