CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — New Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus appeared set to make sweeping changes from the disastrous tenure of predecessor Allister Coetzee as he gave 17 uncapped players a chance in his first squad selection on Saturday.
As well as trying out a large number of untested players, Erasmus also recalled some experienced veterans who had been out of the frame after moving to overseas clubs. Those are hooker Bismarck du Plessis, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen, utility back Frans Steyn and fullback Willie le Roux.
The 34-year-old du Plessis in particular was a surprise inclusion, although his return may have been helped by the injury absence of current first choice No. 2 Malcolm Marx.
Among the new players, three of the four scrumhalves Erasmus went with are uncapped: Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl of the Bulls, and Cameron Wright of the Sharks. South Africa's decision to relax restrictions on selecting players who play overseas and have fewer than 30 test caps also allowed Erasmus to recall another scrumhalf, Faf de Klerk.
Erasmus didn't name a captain to stand in for injured No. 8 Warren Whiteley but is expected to announce that on Monday, when the squad will likely be trimmed.
Coetzee was fired early this year after leading the Springboks through two terrible seasons, where they plummeted in the rankings and fell to a series of humiliating defeats.
Erasmus will start his mission to rebuild the Springboks' reputation with a one-off test against Wales in Washington next Saturday, followed by a three-test home series against Eddie Jones' England.
Among the uncapped players were big Bulls second-row pair RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins, Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe, and Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez, who is one of three du Preez brothers in the squad. Erasmus also brought in three uncapped but exciting wings: Sibusiso Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi.