The official announcement of the 31-man Springbok Rugby World Cup (RWC) squad will take place on Monday at 15h00 in Johannesburg, said SA Rugby in a statement.
While fans patiently wait for the official team, speculations are already rife on which team is likely to be taken to the World Cup, following the release of several players.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus released four more players to return to their Currie Cup squads ahead of the team announcement next week.
Ulster loose forward Marcell Coetzee was ruled out of the RWC due to an ankle injury which requires surgery. This sees the loose forward being sidelined for 12 weeks.
From camp in Bloemfontein, Erasmus released props Lizo Gqoboka, Thomas du Toit, lock Marvin Orie, and midfielder André Esterhuizen after just one day of a four-day team-building camp.
Althought SA Rugby’s press release doesn’t confirm it, it is understood that these players are likely to be on standby for the World Cup and not in the final squad.
They join the likes of Scarra Ntubeni, Dillyn Lleyds, Wilco Louw and Marco van Staden who were released on Sunday as 36 players headed to Bloemfontein for their final camp before the announcement.
“Lizo Gqoboka (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Marvin Orie (Xerox Golden Lions), Thomas du Toit and André Esterhuizen (both Cell C Sharks) have been released from the Springbok training squad back to their provinces and will be available for Currie Cup selection this weekend,” the press statement noted.
The Springboks assembled a training squad of 36 players in Bloemfontein this past Sunday for a four-day Rugby World Cup camp as part of their preparations for the global tournament which starts next month in Japan.
The group consists entirely of players who were part of the Springboks’ successful Rugby Championship campaign and the Farewell Test against Argentina in Pretoria.
“The camp is designed to refocus the group on the Rugby World Cup campaign,” the SA Rugby statement added.
Apart from a few team-building exercises, the Springbok coaches and conditioning staff put the team through some field sessions and series of technical activities as the Boks continue to refine their plan for Japan.
The Springbok group had closed practice sessions in Bloemfontein before breaking camp yesterday and departing to Johannesburg today (Fri).
With four players gone from the squad it leaves just 32 vying for the 31 spots. The only decision that Erasmus needs to make it seems would be on the loose forward. Given the players left in Bloemfontein, the Boks currently have six loose forwards in camp, with five going to the Rugby World Cup.
While Duane Vermeulen, captain Siya Kolisi and SA Rugby Player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit are virtually assured of their spots, it seems the remaining two spots will be filled later this week when Erasmus informs the players of where they stand.
Three players – Francois Louw, Kwagga Smith and Rynhardt Elstadt – will vie for these two spots with the unlucky player to miss out being added to the standby group in case of injury.
To leave any player out at this stage would be tragic and a tough choice indeed for Erasmus.