South Africa coach Peter de Villiers claims maintaining consistency was a key part of the decision to continue with the same group of players that overcame the British and Irish Lions for their opening Tri-Nations fixture against New Zealand in Bloemfontein on July 25.
The Springbok selectors today kept faith with 22 of the men that did duty in the 2-1 series win over the touring Lions, with Jannie du Plessis the only new name added to the 23-man list.
“The Lions series was ideal preparation for the Vodacom Tri-Nations,” De Villiers said. “The core squad that secured the series win in the first two Tests has great potential as a unit and we believe that they have much more to offer.
“That is why we have made sure that we have remained consistent in our selection policy.”
The most notable absentee from the list is Schalk Burger, currently serving a 12-week ban for misconduct during the second Test against the Lions, but Bakkies Botha, whose two-week suspension for dangerous charging ends this week, has been included.
Zane Kirchner, a debutant in the final Lions Test, is excluded alongside Odwa Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Jongi Nokwe, Earl Rose, Deon Carstens, Johann Muller and Gurthro Steenkamp - all of whom have been released for provincial duty during the domestic Currie Cup.
Like De Villiers, national convenor of the selectors Peter Jooste is also keen on grooming the current crop of players.
He said: “We have stuck with the core of the players who took part in the Lions series, most of whom have been in the larger Springbok training squad over the past 12 months.
“We have also tried to ensure that the combinations that featured in the first two Lions Tests are kept intact to ensure consistency and familiarity.”
Reflecting on the inclusion of Sharks prop Du Plessis, who has seven Test caps to his name and was part of the victorious 2007 World Cup campaign but has not featured for his country since facing England late last year, Jooste added: “Jannie has been a part of the Springbok squad since 2007 and still has much to offer.
“He was unfortunate to miss out on selection for the Lions series but now gets an opportunity in the Vodacom Tri-Nations.”
Captain John Smit and his players are currently on a break following the conclusion of the series against the Lions on July 4.
They will assemble in Bloemfontein on Thursday afternoon ahead of their opening Tri-Nations clash against the All Blacks on Saturday week.
The tournament kicks off this Saturday when the All Blacks host Australia in the competition opener in Auckland.