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International Rugby

NEWS: Boks boosted for Wales clash by Japan-based stars, Esterhuizen also set to feature

Head coach Rassie Erasmus has named his squad for the opening game against Warren Gatland’s men, and while the fixture is outside World Rugby’s official window, the Bok boss has still named an impressive training squad.

Andre Esterhuizen of South Africa 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B, Stade de Marseille, Marseille, France - 01 Oct 2023

Head coach Rassie Erasmus has named his squad for the opening game against Warren Gatland's men, and while the fixture is outside World Rugby's official window, the Bok boss has still named an impressive training squad.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Several Japan-based stars have been allowed to link up with the team in Pretoria and will be available for selection.

However, Erasmus has not been able to select players from England and France due to regulation nine, which means that double World Cup-winning Springbok captain Siya Kolisi has yet to join the side because the French season is still ongoing.

With the Bulls still in contention for the URC final, which will be played on the same day as the clash against Wales, none of Jake White’s stars have been included, with Celimpilo Gumede only joining after an injury to Cheslin Kolbe.

Leicester Tigers stars Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese were also included in the squad but only for training purposes, with the former unavailable for selection due to the clash being outside the window and the latter ruled out through suspension.

Harlequins centre Andre Esterhuizen was another notable inclusion after finishing up his season in the Premiership ahead of his move to the Sharks next season.

Unlike Pollard, Planet Rugby reports that Erasmus will be able to select Esterhuizen in the Test match against Wales because he has signed to join the Sharks next season.

It was initially unclear whether the powerhouse midfielder would be available to Erasmus and his coaching staff, but having sought clarification, it has been confirmed that Esterhuizen can pull on the Green and Gold jersey on June 22 if selected. His availability boosts the Springboks’ midfield options with Lukhanyo Am sidelined along with Canan Moodie.

This is bound to have a knock-on effect for Wiese, too, as the game against Wales is set to cover one of his eight-game suspensions following his red card in his final Premiership match for Leicester.

When the RFU confirmed the length of the Japan-bound number eight’s disciplinary hearing, there were caveats for the Wales and Portugal games but with Esterhuizen seemingly not bound by World Rugby Regulation nine, then the same would apply to Wiese.

If the Test matches against Wales and Portugal not been taken into account for Wiese’s ban, the back-rower would not only miss the two Test matches against Ireland but also the pair against Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, respectively.

Erasmus included 11 uncapped players in his first official training squad of the year, and the number was increased to 12 with Gumede’s call-up.

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