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Erasmus picks 36 hopefuls for SA World Cup squad

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South Africa Rugby World Cup squad contender Vincent Koch (R) playing against Argentina in Pretoria this weekend. AFP

Erasmus picks 36 hopefuls for SA World Cup squad

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus named a 36-man pre-Rugby World Cup squad on Sunday, from which he will cut five players on August 26 when those bound for Japan are named.

There were no shock inclusions or omissions although Ulster loose forward Marcell Coetzee was not considered because of head and ankle injuries sustained in a 24-18 warm-up win over Argentina this weekend.

Erasmus is expected to choose a traditional World Cup squad of 17 forwards and 14 backs, in which case four forwards and one back will drop out after a four-day camp in Bloemfontein ends on Thursday.

There are seven props and looseheads Steven Kitshoff and Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira and tightheads Trevor Nyakane and Frans Malherbe are considered certainties.

That would leave loosehead Lizo Gqoboka, tighthead Vincent Koch and Thomas du Toit, who can fulfil either role, battling for one place.

With Nyakane able to scrum either side of the hooker, Koch is the favourite as his inclusion would give South Africa three loosehead and three tighthead options.

Erasmus said after the victory the Pumas in Pretoria that locks Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert and RG Snyman are going to Japan, so Marvin Orie will miss out.

With the coach also announcing that the hookers will be 38-year-old Schalk Brits, Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi, that leaves room for five loose forwards.

Of the six in Bloemfontein, captain Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen are poised to get the nod ahead of Rynhardt Elstadt.

The unlucky back could be Andre Esterhuizen as inside centre rival Francois Steyn has two advantages – he can also play at full-back or fly-half and is a good long range goal kicker.

Injuries have ruled several stars out of contention, including the 2018 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, winger Aphiwe Dyantyi, and former Springboks skipper and No8 Warren Whiteley.

South Africa begin their World Cup campaign against defending champions New Zealand on September 21 and also meet Canada, Italy and Namibia in Pool B.

The Springboks and All Blacks, who between them have won five of the eight World Cup finals, are hot favourites to occupy the first two places in the final standings and qualify for the quarter-finals.

The 31-man World Cup squad will be named next Monday in Johannesburg at 7pm Cambodian time.

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