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Reigning World Champions South Africa Unveil Rugby World Cup Squad

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Tuesday Aug 8, 2023

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber today announced his squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

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Naming a squad that combines youth with experience, the reigning World Champions will be looking to get their campaign off to a flier when they face Scotland in round one on September 10th.

One area of concern for Nienaber and Springbok fans alike is the absence of experienced trio Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Lood de Jager.

Pollard’s absence is possibly the biggest concern, given the Springboks goal kicking issues during the November series, which ultimately contributed heavily to their losses to France and Ireland.

With Pollard not in the squad, the role of first-choice goal kicker will likely fall to Stormers star Manie Libbok.

The 26-year-old Libbok has made just seven appearances for South Africa to date compared to the 63 of Pollard.

In forwards, de Jager’s absence paves the way for former Irish international Jean Kleyn to break into the squad, having made his debut for South Africa during this year’s Rugby Championship.

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Speaking at the squad announcement, Nienaber was keen to highlight just how challenging the selection process was for this year’s tournament.

“This was one of the hardest selections we have ever had to make,” said Nienaber.

“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.

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“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 the World Cup level – as many of the players who featured against Argentina showed last weekend.”

Nienaber also announced that nine players would be placed on standby – five of whom will travel with the team to Cardiff and London for their last two RWC warm-up matches against Wales (19 August) and New Zealand (25 August).

The nine players are Am (centre), De Jager (lock), Jean-Luc du Preez (utility forward), Thomas du Toit (prop), Joseph Dweba (hooker), Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf), Pollard (flyhalf), Evan Roos (No 8) and Gerhard Steenekamp (prop). The five travelling to the UK on Saturday are Du Toit, Du Preez, Dweba, Pollard and Am.

Nienaber said: “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.

“The coaches and players have put in a helluva lot of 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 shown 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.”

In full, the Springbok squad consists of nineteen forwards and fourteen backs.

Forwards: Steven Kitshoff (Ulster), Vincent Koch (Cell C Sharks), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92), Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks), Jean Kleyn (Munster), Marvin Orie (Perpignan), RG Snyman (Munster), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Siya Kolisi (capt, Racing 92), Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby), Jasper Wiese (Leicester), Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat).

Backs: Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles ), Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier), Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks), Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers), Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath), Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls), Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls).

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