GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa released four players from a training camp in Bloemfontein Monday, effectively narrowing to 32 the contenders for the 31-man Rugby World Cup squad to be named next week.
A South African Rugby Union Statement said props Lizo Gqoboka and Thomas du Toit, lock Marvin Orie and center Andre Esterhuizen would return to their clubs Tuesday and be available for Currie Cup selection this weekend.
Barring a shock, coach Rassie Erasmus has only to decide between loose forwards Rynhardt Elstadt and Kwagga Smith before announcing his final Springboks squad next Monday in Johannesburg.
Elstadt plays for French club Toulouse and Smith for the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions and both were recalled to the squad this season.
Another loose forward, Marcell Coetzee, suffered head and ankle injuries in a warm-up win over Argentina last Saturday and will be sidelined for up to 12 weeks, ruling him out of the World Cup.
After a seven-win, seven-loss first year under Erasmus, South Africa has improved this season with three victories and a draw, and a first Rugby Championship title following seven failed attempts.
The draw, away to three-time world champion New Zealand, was the most impressive result. It came when find-of-the-season Herschel Jantjies snatched a last-gasp try that Handre Pollard converted.
The Springboks and the All Blacks meet again on Sept. 21 in the opening World Cup match for both countries, who will be expected to qualify from Pool B at the expense of Canada, Italy and Namibia.