Du Preez makes Springbok squad

5 August 2013

Two-time South African Rugby Player of the Year Fourie du Preez was one of three changes made to a 30-man line-up when the Springboks' Castle Lager Rugby Championship squad was announced on Saturday.

The other changes saw prop Gurthro Steenkamp, also a former South African Player of the Year, and eighthman Duane Vermeulen, fit again after overcoming injury, cracking the nod.

Francois Hougaard, who took over at scrumhalf from Du Preez at the Blue Bulls and for the Springboks, was recently ruled out of action for the rest of the season because of an ankle injury, which will require surgery.

International action

Although Du Preez has not played international rugby since South Africa's loss to Australia in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup in October 2011, the 62-test veteran should bolster a position that has been somewhat unsettled since his move to Japan.

Du Preez is a proven winner, having won the Junior World Cup and the IRB Rugby World Cup. He was a star player during the Bulls' run of three Super Rugby titles in four years, from 2007 to 2010. In the past two years, he has helped Suntory Sungoliath to victory in the All-Japan Rugby Football Championship.

The 31-year-old was also key to the Bulls' winning style of rugby under Heynecke Meyer, who is now the Springbok coach.

Released

Suntory Sungoliath has released Du Preez for international duty for parts of The Castle Rugby Championship, including for the three tests in South Africa. When he cannot travel with the Springboks, his place in the squad will be taken by Piet van Zyl.

"We're very thankful to everyone at Saru (the South African Rugby Union) and Suntory, who made it possible to select Fourie," Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement.

"Fourie has been out of international rugby for a while and it makes sense to involve him as soon as possible. Piet was part of the squad in June and we know what he can do. He will slot in without any problems when necessary."

Vital roles

Vermeulen, who has shaken off a knee injury which kept him out of the June tests, and the experienced Steenkamp both return to the squad after playing vital roles in the Springboks' unbeaten tour of Ireland, Scotland and England last year.

"It's great to have Duane back after he played such an important role for us at the end of last season," Meyer commented.

"It will also be good to see Gurthro back in the mix. Along with Fourie, they boast 102 tests worth of experience between the two of them, have been part of very successful teams before, and will be able to share a lot of knowledge with the younger players around them.

'Continuity'

"We've managed to keep a lot of continuity between this squad of 30 players and the squad that did duty during the Castle Lager Incoming Series [in matches against Italy, Scotland and Samoa].

"As I've said before, it's vitally important for the younger players in the set-up to get more experienced and increase their test caps, but this will be a very tough Championship and we will have to be at our very best.

"Argentina showed last year what they can do and while we are mindful of the threat they pose, our focus will be on building on the good things we achieved in June and improving in areas where we were not satisfied."

Castle Lager Rugby Championship

The Springboks will open their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at the FNB Stadium in Soweto as part of the Nelson Mandela Sport & Culture Day celebrations on 17 August. The following day they will fly to South America where they will face Los Pumas in Mendoza on 24 August.

They will then face Australia in Brisbane on 7 September and New Zealand in Auckland on 14 September.

The final two home tests are scheduled for 28 September in Cape Town, against Australia, and 5 October in Johannesburg, against New Zealand.

Injured players who have been part of the squad in the last two seasons, but were not considered for selection were Frans Malherbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Arno Botha, Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Jaco Taute and Frans Steyn.

SPRINGBOK SQUAD

Forwards: Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe

Backs: Bjorn Basson, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Fourie du Preez, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Ruan Pienaar, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Duane Vermeulen

SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby

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