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Whiteley announced as 2017 Springbok captain, 31-man squad named to face France

BY MARC JACOBSON - MAY 23, 2017
Whiteley announced as 2017 Springbok captain, 31-man squad named to face France

Springbok Head Coach, Allister Coetzee, has named his 31-man squad for their incoming three Test Series against France in June, which includes eight uncapped players.

Golden Lions captain and pivot, Warren Whiteley, has been named captain ahead of other leader prospect, Duane Vermeulen, who has also been named in the squad.

Whiteley will become the 58th Springbok captain in the history, and will get to lead from the front when the squad assembles for the first time on Monday 29th of May, at their training camp in Plettenberg Bay where they will spend for a week for their preparations.

The eight uncapped players who will be introduced into the international scene are: Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronjé, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka.

Four of those, Rhule, Cronjé, Dreyer and Gqoboka, have previously been included in the national set-up before, have yet to out in the Green and Gold for the first time.

Some notable inclusions include European-based, Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors) who has starred in the Aviva Premiership in England and Francois Steyn (Montpellier), who has been prominent for his side in the French Top 14.

Adding to that, Vermeulen (Toulon) sprinkles more European experience and spice into the squad.

Some surprise selections include: Chilliboy Ralapelle, who has been relatively quiet for the Cell C Sharks this season, Rhule, a player who has had various weak defensive lapses throughout the season and Gqoboka, the Bulls prop who has been relatively overshadowed by the likes of Ox Nche (Cheetahs) and Thomas du Toit (Sharks) with fine form in the prop berth.

As a specialist fetcher, Chris Cloete was a surprise omission, while the Sharks’ Jean-Luc du Preez, who has had a stupendous season as a ball-carrying flank, was the shock exclusion in the loose-forwards.

In his selection of Whiteley as new Springbok captain, Coetzee said at the team announcement conference, “Warren has been one of the outstanding leaders in South African rugby for many years.”

“He is respected by his team-mates and opposition alike and has a lot of experience when it comes to captaincy, having led the Emirates Lions with great authority for many seasons. He is resilient, copes well under pressure and makes good decisions,” he said.

“The national selectors have rewarded form and we are looking forward to face the French team next month. I am confident the players will do the jersey and our country proud.”

“A lot of hard work has been done since the start of the season to make sure we improve as a team. The collaboration and spirit showed at the various indabas and other gatherings are proof that we are moving in the right direction.”

“The three pre-season training camps gave us the chance to have a close look at a number of players, especially those who haven’t been involved with the Springboks previously. We were also kept abreast of the form and the progress of the overseas-based group of players,” added Coetzee.

South Africa's first Test against France will take place at Loftus Versfeld on the 10th of June.

The 31-man Springbok squad:

Forwards (18):
Lood de Jager (lock), Vodacom Bulls – 28 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock), DHL Stormers – 20 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Ruan Dreyer (prop), Emirates Lions – uncapped 
Eben Etzebeth (lock), DHL Stormers – 54 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Steven Kitshoff (prop), Bordeaux Bègles (France) – 10 caps, 0 points
Siya Kolisi (flank), DHL Stormers – 16 caps, 0 points
Jaco Kriel (loose forward), Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 0 points
Frans Malherbe (prop), DHL Stormers – 15 caps, 0 points
Malcolm Marx (hooker), Emirates Lions – 2 caps, 0 points
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), DHL Stormers – 5 caps; 0 points
Oupa Mohoje (loose forward), Toyota Cheetahs – 15 tests, 0 points
Franco Mostert (lock), Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 0 points
Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Cell C Sharks – 87 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Vodacom Bulls – uncapped 
Coenie Oosthuizen (prop), Cell C Sharks – 23 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker), Cell C Sharks – 22 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Duane Vermeulen (loose forward), Toulon (France) – 37 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Warren Whiteley (captain, loose forward), Emirates Lions – 15 caps, 15 points (3 tries)

Backs (13):
Lukhanyo Am (centre), Cell C Sharks – uncapped
Andries Coetzee (fullback) Emirates Lions – uncapped 
Ross Cronje (scrumhalf), Emirates Lions – uncapped 
Damian de Allende (centre), DHL Stormers – 22 Caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf), Worcester (England) – 39 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
Elton Jantjies (flyhalf), Emirates Lions – 11 caps, 78 points (12 conversions, 18 penalties)
Jesse Kriel (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 17 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Dillyn Leyds (wing/utility back), DHL Stormers – uncapped
Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), Vodacom Bulls – 7 caps, 0 points
Raymond Rhule (wing) Toyota Cheetahs – uncapped
Jan Serfontein (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 26 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Courtnall Skosan (wing), Emirates Lions – uncapped 
Frans Steyn (flyhalf/centre), Montpellier (France) – 53 caps, 132 points (10 tries, 5 conversions, 21 penalties, 3 drop goals).

Image: Warren Whiteley in Springbok colours last year.