Newbies' inclusion should not come as a surprise
THE inclusion of Springbok newcomers Siya Kolisi and Pat Cilliers in the squad for the Four Nations tournament might be surprising to those not closely familiar with South African rugby, but not to the players themselves.
Cilliers, the 25-year-old prop from the Lions and Kolisi, the 21-year-old flank from the Stormers, are part of a new generation of players set to make their mark on the international stage over the next few seasons and both feel they are ready to step up to test level.
"Of course I was surprised when I got the call from the coach to tell me I was in the squad, but at the same time I know I've worked hard and deserve to be here," Kolisi said.
"I believe the easy part is to make the squad, the harder part will be to take my opportunity when it comes and stay in the team."
Cilliers' elevation to the Bok squad is a result of having an attitude that never allowed him to give up, even when crippling knee injuries threatened to derail his fledgling career before it had really started.
In 2007 there was already talk of Cilliers forming part of the Bok squad after that year's World Cup.
But torn anterior cruciate ligaments in his knee at the end of the season resulted in two years of rehabilitation after complications from the initial injury.
"I was pleasantly surprised to be called up but after attending an initial Bok training camp and then being cut before the England series in June I was very disappointed," Cilliers said.
"But from that setback I was determined to train harder, work harder and improve my game. I have taken my chances this season because you never know when you are going to be selected, and I'm ready."
Cilliers is almost certain to feature in the 22-man squad for the first test of the new competition against Argentina on August 18 at Newlands.
Along with Jannie du Plessis, Cilliers is the only prop in the 30-man group who can operate on both sides of the scrum, which means he will probably be named on the bench for that match. Injury permitting, Du Plessis will start.
Kolisi might have to wait a little longer as coach Heyneke Meyer has confirmed that he sees the young flank as an openside. With incumbent Marcell Coetzee in the squad and playing excellent rugby, Kolisi is unlikely to force his way into the starting line-up.
His versatility, though, which has seen him operate in every back row position for the Stormers this year after making his debut 15 minutes into the opening game of the season, could count in his favour when it comes to the bench.