Wing JJ Engelbrecht, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak were members of the extended squad for the series against England in June, but did not feature in any of the three Tests, while flank Siya Kolisi and prop Pat Cilliers have been brought into the team for the first time after strong showings in the SuperRugby competition.
Eighthman Ryan Kankowski and centre Wynand Olivier, who have both signed contracts to play in Japan, have been dropped, allowing the experienced Pierre Spies to retain his place, while Francois Steyn returns after missing the last Test against England to get married.
Fullback Bjorn Basson, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, flyhalf Johan Goosen and loose forwards Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussow and Duane Vermuelen were not considered due to injury.
Lock Andries Bekker, the tallest Springbok ever at 2.08m, has been recalled to the squad after missing the England series due to injury, and will join youngsters Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth and Flip van der Merwe in the second row.
“The Rugby Championship is going to be very tough and a few youngsters are going to need to put their hands up because we’re playing against the best teams in the world. We’ll need to improve every game and we’d like to keep some continuity in the squad,” Meyer told a news conference in Worcester on Saturday.
Meyer named seven front-row players, including the complete front row of the Sharks team that reached the SuperRugby final – burly loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and his brother, tighthead Jannie.
Lions prop Cilliers’ ability to play both tighthead and loosehead has seen him selected for the first time.
The 21-year-old Kolisi enjoyed a top-class SuperRugby campaign for the Stormers, proving himself as a ferocious tackler and strong ball-carrier.
The squad will assemble in Cape Town on Sunday for a training camp.
“It’s a big challenge, playing six Tests against the best teams in the world in eight weeks and we now have to ensure we improve on how we played against England. It’s still early days for this team, but we are excited about what lies ahead in a brand-new competition that promises to be very testing,” Meyer said.
South Africa are playing Argentina, who are making their debut in the southern hemisphere competition that also includes World Cup winners New Zealand and defending champions Australia, in Cape Town on August 18, before travelling to South America to play the same team in Mendoza on August 25.
The Springboks are coming off a disappointing 14-14 draw with England in their last Test, in Port Elizabeth on June 23 and Meyer said the make-up of the squad would be reconsidered after the two Tests against Argentina. This will be followed by Tests against Australia in Perth (September 8) and the All Blacks in Dunedin (September 15), followed by the home matches against those two sides, in Pretoria (September 29) and Soweto (October 6).
Squad – Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Francois Steyn, Morne Steyn, Elton Jantjies, Ruan Pienaar, Jano Vermaak, Keegan Daniel, Pierre Spies, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Jacques Potgieter, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Tendai Mtawarira, Dean Greyling, Pat Cilliers.