Eighteen members of South Africa’s triumphant 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning squad were included in the 2011 party when the 30 players selected to attempt to retain the title were revealed in a live broadcast announcement on Tuesday.
John Smit will again lead the challenge, and he is supported by 11 other survivors of the victorious 2007 starting XV. Smit is one of six players who will be appearing at their third Rugby World Cup.
There are no uncapped players in the squad and all bar three have appeared in this season’s Tri-Nations tournament. The exceptions are looseforwards Schalk Burger and Francois Louw and lock Johann Muller who were ruled out by injury at various stages of the competition.
Other 2007 winners, Juan Smith and BJ Botha, were ruled out of selection by injury along with preliminary squad members Andries Bekker and Duane Vermeulen.
“The squad has a backbone of proven title-winning ability and experience as well as a strong component of new stars,” said Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.
“Injury has denied us one or two players who could have been very important to us, but I am very happy with the squad we have picked. We have good coverage for every position and front line players who have shown over the past half dozen seasons that they know how to win big games.”
The squad is made up of nine players who appeared in Super Rugby for the Bulls this season; eight from the Sharks and seven from the Stormers – although a number of players are now moving on to overseas clubs. The squad includes four overseas-based players in the Ulster duo of Ruan Pienaar and Johann Muller and Racing Metro’s Frans Steyn. Louw has already moved to Bath in England, from the Stormers, but has yet to play a competition fixture for them.
The squad has a split of 16 forwards and 14 backs and boasts an average of 40 caps per player with ten of them having made more than a half century of Test appearances, while Pienaar is one short of a half century.
“This squad has the experience and ability to make a strong challenge for the title, but we know it will be very difficult,” said De Villiers. “It has been a tough season to date and we have had some challenges with the amount of rugby the players have had to play, but I’m very happy with the squad. We are on target with the off-field plans we set in place before the season started.”
The Springboks depart for New Zealand on September 1 with a public farewell from Sandton Square in Johannesburg. They play their first Rugby World Cup match against Wales on September 11 in Wellington.
SPRINGBOKS 2001 RWC SQUAD
Juan de Jongh
Jean de Villiers
Bismarck du Plessis
Jannie du Plessis
Fourie du Preez
Victor Matfield (vc)
John Smit (c)
CJ van der Linde