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JOHANNESBURG — When Blitzbok Ruhan Nel decided to make the switch from Sevens to the 15-man game and join Western Province his focus was on the Currie Cup with ambitions of playing Super Rugby for the Stormers. After a couple of seasons with the Golden Lions from 2012 to 2014 with little success in establishing himself, Nel decided to make a career in Sevens rugby. 135 appearances and a 2017/18 World Sevens Series title later, he was back trying his luck in the 15-man game. Even though he opted for a honeymoon rather than pre-season training, Nel was drafted straight into WP’s first Currie Cup game of the season against the Cheetahs. Coach Paul Dobson maintained that Nel had the abilities to achieve the highest honours in both codes. The 27-year old’s call-up to the Springbok squad might have come a little quicker than he had anticipated. In August he was talking about the short-term goal of settling into Currie Cup rugby and preparing for Super Rugby. He was cautious about his own prospects of achieving success right away, saying he didn’t expect to become a good 15s player overnight. By his own admission, he wasn’t even expecting to make the WP first team. But he was prepared to dream about playing for the Springboks. He joins three other centres in the Bok squad – André Esterhuizen, Jesse Kriel and Lionel Mapoe. Coach Rassie Erasmus is known for his unpredictability and Nel, playing alongside another former Sevens star Cheslin Kolbe, might find himself wearing the green and gold sooner than he expected. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
The uncapped Blitzbok star Ruhan Nel, Vincent Koch (prop), Sbu Nkosi (wing), Lionel Mapoe (centre) and Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf) have been added to the Springbok squad for their final two Castle Lager Rugby Championship home matches against the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
They joined the 17 players already in camp in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. The Springboks face the Wallabies next Saturday, 29 September in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. They conclude the Castle Lager Rugby Championship with a return fixture against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria a week later.
Nel, who plays outside for the DHL Western Province in the Currie Cup, is included amongst the backs alongside Mapoe. Nkosi has recovered from the ankle injury that stopped him from playing in any Castle Lager Rugby Championship matches so far this year.
Front ranker Koch is currently starring for Saracens in England. Meanwhile, Trevor Nyakane (prop, Vodacom Blue Bulls) will continue with his conditioning programme under the supervision of the Springbok conditioning and medical staff over the next two weeks.
Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, said he was excited to welcome back players such as Van Zyl, Mapoe and Nkosi, and to work with Nel and Koch.
“Ruhan comes with a lot of international experience with the Blitzboks and he has performed consistently well for DHL WP, so it will be good to see how he operates in the Bok environment,” said Erasmus.
“Trevor and Sbu have been part of the squad earlier in the year and it’s good to welcome them back, while the players who featured for their provinces in recent weeks all got some valuable game time.”
The Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship home leg against the Wallabies and All Blacks (in alphabetical order – name and surname, position, franchise/club, Test caps and points)
Schalk Brits (Hooker, Unattached), 11, 5 – 1t
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Lock/ loose forward, DHL Western Province), 40, 20 – 4t
Eben Etzebeth (Lock, DHL Western Province), 71, 15 – 3t
Steven Kitshoff (Prop, DHL Western Province), 31, 5 – 1t
Vincent Koch (Prop, Saracens, England), 9, 0
Siya Kolisi (Captain, Flanker, DHL Western Province), 35, 25 – 5t
Wilco Louw (Prop, DHL Western Province), 10, 0
Frans Malherbe (Prop, DHL Western Province), 23, 0
Malcolm Marx (Hooker, Emirates Lions), 18, 20 – 4t
Bongi Mbonambi (Hooker, DHL Western Province), 20, 10 – 2t
Franco Mostert (Lock, Xerox Golden Lions), 24, 5 – 1t
Tendai Mtawarira (Prop, Cell C Sharks), 105, 10 – 2t
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No 8, DHL Western Province), 4, 0
RG Snyman (Lock, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 6, 0
Marco van Staden (Flanker, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 1, 0
Warren Whiteley (No 8, Xerox Golden Lions), 21, 15 – 3t
*Note: Trevor Nyakane (Prop, Vodacom Blue Bulls) will continue with his conditioning programme under the supervision of the Springbok conditioning staff
Faf de Klerk (Scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, England), 18, 10 – 2t
Aphiwe Dyantyi (Wing, Xerox Golden Lions), 7, 25 – 5t
André Esterhuizen (Centre, Cell C Sharks), 4, 0
Elton Jantjies (Flyhalf, Xerox Golden Lions), 28, 223 – 2t, 42c, 43p
Willie le Roux (Fullback, Wasps, England), 48, 60 – 12t
Cheslin Kolbe (Utility back, Toulouse, France), 2, 5 – 1t
Jesse Kriel (Centre, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 34, 45 – 9t
Lionel Mapoe (Centre, Xerox Golden Lions), 14, 10 – 2t
Ruhan Nel (Centre, DHL Western Province), uncapped
Sibusiso Nkosi (Wing, Cell C Sharks), 3, 10 – 2t
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 3, 0
Handré Pollard (Flyhalf, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 33, 265 – 3t, 50c, 47p, 3d
Ivan van Zyl (Scrumhalf, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 3, 0
Damian Willemse (Flyhalf, DHL Western Province), 2, 0