Rugby Championship: Jean De Villiers fit and returns as South Africa captain
Last Updated: 04/08/14 4:40pm
Jean De Villiers is fit again and will return as captain for South Africa for the Rugby Championship against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
The inside centre has recovered from the left knee problem that kept him out of the Springboks' Tests against Wales and Scotland in June.
He is one of six players back from injury and named in South Africa's 30-man squad for the Rugby Championship, alongside forwards Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth, and backs Patrick Lambie and Damian de Allende.
De Villiers regains the captaincy which was passed to veteran lock Victor Matfield for all four of the Springboks' wins in their mid-year games.
Centre De Allende and scrum-half Cobus Reinach are the only uncapped players in coach Heyneke Meyer's group.
Reinach was called up after 2007 World Cup-winning scrum-half Fourie du Preez was ruled out for six months with a right ankle injury.
The return of powerful second-rower Etzebeth, who has not played this year, is a big boost for South Africa, ranked No 2 in the IRB world rankings.
South Africa kick off the Rugby Championship on August 16 against Argentina in Pretoria, while Australia host defending champions New Zealand in Sydney.
A key Springbok aim in the Championship will be to gain a morale-boosting win over the No 1-ranked world champions New Zealand ahead of the World Cup next year. The All Blacks won their third Rugby Championship in four years last season, winning six out of six games.
"We've been steadily improving over the past two years but another step-up is needed this season," Springboks coach Meyer said.
Neither flanker Schalk Burger nor centre JP Pietersen will be available for the first part of the tournament, the South African Rugby Union said, with both due to report to their Japanese clubs next week.
South Africa squad:
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Lodewyk de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs: Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn.