Most of the squad comes from the Bulls and Sharks, with ten of the Super 14 champions represented, and the same number for South Africa’s second strongest Super 14 team, the Sharks.
25 of the 28 men selected toured with the Springbok side that travelled the Northern Hemisphere at the end of 2008, and it is the most experienced test squad currently in the world; allowing for the fact that the All Blacks are missing key campaigners from their first team of the year.
The squad contains a remarkable 792 test caps, and still contains 13 of the World Cup winning match day 22 that played in the final against England.
Certainly, on the evidence of this, and based on the Bulls rout of the Chiefs, one would think that 2009 could well be the year of the Bok.
Add to this a maiden IRB Seven’s title, and it appears that South African rugby is indeed in a remarkable state of health.
While there supporters will quickly point out that they now stand on the summit of world rugby, much will depend on this year’s results.
This year, while the Under 20’s Springbok team will look to stake their claim on the junior division of world rugby this month in the Junior World Championship, the Bok’s have some unfinished business of their own this year.
First, they must effectively “avenge” the Lion’s defeat of 12 years ago.
This first challenge must be overcome, for the Springboks are overwhelming favourites to take the series. While I believe that the famous touring team has enough quality to at least front up to the reigning World Champions, there surely is too much class in this South African team.
The all time greatest Springbok team?
This next six months will see whether or not this is true.
Attention then moves to the Tri Nations, and the lesser known Freedom Cup, the latter the new trophy that is played between the Springboks and All Blacks.
While many, including New Zealanders, believe that the All Black team is in a transitional phase, they are still the IRB’s number one ranked team.
They have had an absolute stranglehold on the Tri Nations trophy, winning it nine times since 1996, and they have to be overcome.
The legitimacy of the Springboks first year of World Cup reign was soured somewhat by last year’s poor Tri Nations result, where they lost four of their six matches.
Buoyed by the success of their Bulls team, they must do as they did in 2007, and use that momentum to carry them to international success.
Here, the Super 14 final may have appeared to be a slight mirage for South Africa’s strength.
One has to ask, was that performance as good as any South African team, Bulls, Bok or otherwise, could give in 2009?
Beyond perhaps John Smit, are there any other players in South African rugby that could accentuate the Bulls rugby machine, and hence, the Springboks?
For there are certainly All Blacks that could have been added to the Chiefs side to dramatically increase their potency.
But while I digress, with this squad at their disposal, there are no excuses for the Springboks not to win not only their second Lions series since 1968, but their first Tri Nations since 2004.
There are four Super 14 captains selected in the squad, and impressive depth all through the team.
Except at full back, where Peter De Villiers has surprisingly omitted Zane Kirchner.
Other notable exclusions are Cheetahs lock David De Villiers and flank Heinrich Brussow, who both were statistically two of South African rugby’s highest performers.
Sharks utility backs Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn, who have been recovering from injuries, are included in the group.
It is here that De Villiers gives us a trademark gem to finish with, when asked if he would risk either player if not fully fit.
"I never take chances with players' lives," said de Villiers.
Now that the squad has been selected, we can expect numerous more brilliant quotes from the diminutive South African coach.
John Smit (Sharks, 81, captain), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks, 21), Deon Carstens (Sharks, 7), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks, 10), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks, 7)
Victor Matfield (Bulls, 80, vice-captain), Bakkies Botha (Bulls, 55), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls, 3), Danie Rossouw (Bulls, 36), Pierre Spies (Bulls, 19), Gurthrö Steenkamp (Bulls, 20)
Andries Bekker (Stormers, 13), Schalk Burger (Stormers, 49)
Juan Smith (Cheetahs, 54)
Fourie du Preez (Bulls, 43), Bryan Habana (Bulls, 46), Wynand Olivier (Bulls, 21), Morné Steyn (Bulls, uncapped)
Adi Jacobs (Sharks, 21), Odwa Ndungane (Sharks, 3), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks, 27), JP Pietersen (Sharks, 24), Frans Steyn (Sharks, 27)
Jean de Villiers (Stormers, 46), Ricky Januarie (Stormers, 34),
Jaque Fourie (Lions, 42), Earl Rose (Lions, uncapped)
Jongi Nokwe (Cheetahs, 3)
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