Mix of youth and experience in Bok group
The SA Rugby Union (Saru) has handed contracts to a number of exciting youngsters, and retained a host of experienced players among their ranks.
Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee, Juan de Jongh and Pat Lambie, who have a combined 57 test caps, were all included among a list of 15 contracted players on Wednesday, while global stars such as Jean de Villiers, Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis were retained in the group.
Saru said players who were based overseas or who had signed contracts with overseas clubs were not awarded national contracts, including Andries Bekker, Juandre Kruger, Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Zane Kirchner.
"We've kept as many of our top players in South Africa as we could by awarding them national contracts, despite the powerful lure of the pound, euro and yen," said Saru CEO Jurie Roux.
"We worked hard with the Springbok management and Sarpa (SA Rugby Players' Association) to ensure the best possible deal is placed on the table for the players."
Roux said an additional five contracts would be finalised in due course.
"Last year provided (Bok coach) Heyneke Meyer with an ideal opportunity to see what is needed in the test arena, and by contracting this group of players, we have secured a core group for 2013.
"The average age of the contracted group is not very high for test rugby, which bodes well for the future."
Meyer said he was excited to work with the contracted group.
"Most of these players showed last year they have what it takes to play for the Springboks and they can only get more experienced and improve further," Meyer said.
"Losing experienced players to overseas teams is not ideal, but it's their right to further their careers abroad."
SPRINGBOK CONTRACTED PLAYERS: Willem Alberts (Sharks), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Juan de Jongh (Western Province), Jean de Villiers (Western Province), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Eben Etzebeth (Western Province), Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls), Pat Lambie (Sharks), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Pierre Spies (Blue Bulls), Frans Steyn (Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Free State Cheetahs), Flip van der Merwe (Blue Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Western Province)