CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa have been boosted by the return of three key players for the Rugby Championship as coach Rassie Erasmus confirmed Siya Kolisi will keep the captaincy.
Kolisi, who became the first black player to skipper the Springboks when he led the side to a 2-1 home series win over England in June, has retained the armband despite the return of former captain Warren Whiteley from injury.
Loose-forward Whiteley led the Lions to the Super Rugby final this season after overcoming a knee injury, and returns to the Bok squad along with powerhouse hooker Malcolm Marx and lock Eben Etzebeth, who has not played any competitive rugby in 2018.
“Eben and Warren have been out of the Bok mix for a while because of injury so it’s very pleasing to have them back in the squad, while Malcolm has regained his good form with the Lions since recovering from his injury,” Erasmus said in a SA Rugby media release on Monday.
Also returning to the squad after missing the England series are veteran loose-forward Francois Louw, scrumhalf Ross Cronje, centre Lionel Mapoe and utility back Lwazi Mvovo.
Louw brings extensive European experience after seven years with Bath in England and returns after Erasmus allowed number eight Duane Vermeulen to skip the championship and play for Japanese side Kubota Spears.
“We saw the benefit and impact of (fullback) Willie le Roux and (scrumhalf) Faf de Klerk in the squad during the June internationals and I want Flo (Louw) to perform a similar role for us,” the coach said.
Erasmus has also named three uncapped players in the group - loose-forwards Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink, and 20-year-old flyhalf Damian Willemse, who is viewed as one of the most exciting prospects in South African rugby.
There was no place for Schalk Brits, however, after the former Saracens hooker came out of retirement to play the final test against England in Cape Town.
Backs Damian de Allende, Warrick Gelant and Sbu Nkosi, as well as forwards Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane and Coenie Oosthuizen miss out due to injury.
The Boks open their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Durban on Aug. 18.
Forwards: Cyle Brink, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Francois Louw, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Akker van der Merwe, Marco van Staden, Warren Whiteley.
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Ross Cronje, Faf de Klerk, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Andre Esterhuizen, Elton Janjies, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Damian Willemse.
Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond