JOHANNESBURG (AP) — No. 8 Warren Whiteley was named the new Springboks captain and coach Allister Coetzee included eight uncapped players in his squad on Tuesday to prepare for a three-test series against France next month.
Whiteley replaced Adriaan Strauss, who retired from internationals at the end of last year, a season of woe for the two-time world champions.
South Africa lost eight out of 12 tests, its worst ever year, leaving Coetzee and his squad under pressure to win back some pride against France.
The eight new players are center Lukhanyo Am, fullback Andries Coetzee, scrumhalf Ross Cronje, utility back Dillyn Leyds, wings Raymond Rhule and Courtnall Skosan, and props Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka.
Coetzee also recalled 2007 World Cup winner Frans Steyn, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle. Steyn last played a test in 2012.
In an attempt to turn around a dismal first year in charge of the Springboks, Coetzee may lean heavily on the success of the Johannesburg-based Lions, who made the Super Rugby final last year and are a form team again this year.
Whiteley and four of the eight uncapped players called in by Coetzee play for the Lions.
"Warren has been one of the outstanding leaders in South African rugby for many years," Coetzee said. "He is resilient, copes well under pressure and makes good decisions."
Flyhalf Handre Pollard, who returned from a long-term injury at the beginning of the year only to get hurt again, was not selected, and fellow No. 10 Pat Lambie was also out because of a concussion. That left Elton Jantjies of the Lions as the only specialist flyhalf in the squad, although Steyn can play there, too.
South Africa faces France on successive Saturdays next month, with the first test in Pretoria on June 10 when the Springboks aim to end a four-test losing streak.
"A lot of hard work has been done since the start of the season to make sure we improve as a team," Coetzee said.