Ulster prop BJ Botha has been included in the Springboks’ 28 man squad to launch the defence of their Tri-Nations title next month.
Botha is joined in the squad by another ‘overseas’ player, Bath outside half Butch James, and the South African coach Peter de Villiers has also included the Ulster bound Ruan Pienaar.
But the big talking point is the return of the Zimbabwean-born, Sharks prop Tendai Mtawarira. The South African Rugby Union announced last week that he has been cleared for selection for the Springboks again following the granting of South African citizenship.
He became unavailable for selection for the Springboks’ first four Tests of 2010 – against Wales, France and the two against Italy – because he did not hold a South African passport. The decision to exclude him from selection was taken following advice from the Ministry of Sport, reaffirming the government’s position that no foreign player can be selected to represent a national team.
Mtawarira had been actively seeking South African citizenship and has now been granted that right by the minister for Home Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
“This is very gratifying news indeed and thanks to much hard work that has been going on behind the scenes over the past few months,” the president of the South African Rugby Union, Oregon Hoskins told SARugby.com.
“It had long been the Beast’s desire to become naturalised and he has had to endure some difficult times in recent months. He is now eligible for selection should he fit into the plans of the coach and national selectors.”
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers wasted no time to welcoming his first choice loose head back into the fold as he named him among the 28 players he will use in the away leg of their Tri-Nations campaign which starts against New Zealand in Auckland on 10 July.
They then move on to the Westpac Stadium on 17 July before hopping across the Tasman to face Australia in Brisbane on 24 July.
Missing through injury are wing JP Pietersen, centre Adi Jacobs, scrum half Fourie du Preez, flanker Heinrich Brüssow, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and wing Odwa Ndungane. Juan Smith is ruled out for personal reasons.
Springbok Tri-Nations Squad
Backs: Gio Aplon (Vodacom Stormers), Juan de Jongh (Vodacom Stormers), Jean de Villiers (Vodacom Western Province), Jaque Fourie (Vodacom Stormers), Bryan Habana (Vodacom Stormers), Francois Hougaard (Vodacom Bulls), Butch James (Bath), Ricky Januarie (Vodacom Stormers), Zane Kirchner (Vodacom Bulls), Wynand Olivier (Vodacom Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), Morné Steyn (Vodacom Bulls).
Forwards: Andries Bekker (Vodacom Stormers), Bakkies Botha (Vodacom Bulls), BJ Botha (Ulster), Schalk Burger (Vodacom Stormers), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), Francois Louw (Vodacom Stormers), Victor Matfield (Vodacom Bulls), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Dewald Potgieter (Vodacom Bulls), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Vodacom Bulls), Danie Rossouw (Vodacom Bulls), John Smit (Sharks, captain), Pierre Spies (Vodacom Bulls), Gurthrö Steenkamp (Vodacom Bulls), CJ van der Linde (Vodacom Cheetahs).