CAPE TOWN, May 23 – Loose-forward Warren Whiteley was named South Africa captain on Tuesday as beleaguered coach Allister Coetzee announced his squad for the three-test home series against France in June.
Whiteley takes over from hooker Adriaan Strauss, who retired from international rugby at the end of last season, and will be the 58th player to lead the Springboks in tests.
“He (Whiteley) is respected by his team mates and opposition alike and has a lot of experience when it comes to captaincy, having led the Lions with great authority for many seasons. He is resilient, copes well under pressure and makes good decisions,” Coetzee said in a South African Rugby statement on Tuesday.
Returning to the squad are number eight Duane Vermeulen and utility back Frans Steyn as the Boks look to put behind them a disastrous 2016, the worst in the country’s test history, in which they won only four of their 12 matches.
Steyn, a member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning squad, last played for the side in 2012 and can cover at flyhalf, centre or fullback.
Coetzee has also spread his net wide with the call-up of eight uncapped players – centre Lukhanyo Am, fullback Andries Coetzee, scrumhalf Ross Cronje, utility back Dillyn Leyds, wingers Raymond Rhule and Courtnall Skosan, and props Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka.
Coetzee found himself under immense pressure last year, his first in charge of the team, after a dismal run of results that included a first ever loss to Italy and a record 57-15 home hammering by New Zealand.
“A lot of hard work has been done since the start of the season to make sure we improve as a team,” Coetzee said.
The Boks host France on June 10 in Pretoria followed by tests in Durban and Johannesburg.South Africa squad:Forwards: Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Ruan Dreyer, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Lizo Gqoboka, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Damian de Allende, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Rudy Paige, Raymond Rhule, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Frans Steyn.