Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber named his squad for the upcoming international window with South Africa hosting Wales in a three-test match series.
Nienaber named a group of 43 players with eight uncapped players included but there was one notable absentee in World Cup winner Duane Vermeulen.
The no.8s exclusion surprised many as he has been a mainstay in the Springboks squad, when fit, since his test debut back in 2012 and had a strong outing against the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship semi-final.
The veteran back-rower popped up at key times for Ulster to stifle Stormers' attack both at the breakdown and at the lineout but was unable to deny his former employers a place in the Final.
According to a report in South Africa, Vermeulen has been battling knee pain for some time and will be given time to rest and treat the injury. The other reports suggest he may even undergo surgery to release the pain.
With Vermeulen missing the series, Nienaber has stacked his options to fill in for the veteran. Uncapped stars Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw have been rewarded with test call-ups and could make their test debuts having helped the Stormers and Bulls in the URC final.
Vermeulen missed the British and Irish Lions Series last year and in his absence, Kwagga Smith was entrusted with the starting no.8 jersey for the first test before Jasper Wiese started the second and third. Both players have been named in the squad and could fulfil the role.
Bulls' captain Marcell Coetzee has also earned a recall to the squad and although his has featured more regularly on the flank for the Pretoria-based side, he is more than capable of playing at the back of the scrum. He has done the job for Ulster, the Bulls, and the Springboks in the past.
Uncapped 35-year-old, Deon Fourie's performances this year has earned him a test call and like Coetzee, he has played mostly at flank for his franchise recently but has experience at number eight for Lyon, Grenoble, Western Province and the Stormers.
Commenting on his squad, Nienaber highlighted the importance of building squad depth ahead of the Rugby World Cup and will look to use this season to do just that.
“Building squad depth is one of the key areas for us, and it is great to see the number of young players who have put up their hands this season, and we are delighted to invite them to the national squad environment,” said Nienaber.
“It is also good to welcome back some of the experienced players who have been part of our structures for a few years now, and I’m confident they will slot back into set-up with ease.
“We obviously have to wait a little longer for some players to be released from their club commitments, but we are pleased to be able to announce the squad with exactly three weeks to go before our opening Test against Wales.”
FULL SPRINGBOKS SQUAD:
Springbok squad for International season:
Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks)
Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers)
Vincent Koch (Saracens)
Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers)
Ntuthuko Mchunu (Cell C Sharks)
Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks)
Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92)
Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux)
Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears)
Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks),
Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks)
Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks)
Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers)
Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls)
Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz)
Marcell Coetzee (Vodacom Bulls)
Siya Kolisi (Cell C Sharks)
Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls)
Evan Roos (DHL Stormers)
Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo)
Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers)
Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse)
Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers)
Franco Mostert (Honda Heat)
Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks)
Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks)
Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers)
Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks)
Johan Goosen IVodacom Bulls)
Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes)
Handre Pollard (Montpellier Herrault),
Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks)
Damian de Allende (Munster)
Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins)
Jesse Kriel (Cannon Eagles)
Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks)
Warrick Gelant (DHL Stormers)
Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon)
Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz)
Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks)
Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls)
Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers)