Three Vodacom Bulls players - Flip van der Merwe, JJ Engelbrecht and Francois Hougaard - have been awarded Springbok contracts till the end of 2014, SARU announced on Friday.
The South African Rugby Union named a group of 17 players that had been contracted for the 2014 Springbok season – completing the process earlier than at any time for a number of seasons.
The signing of seven players to new Springbok contracts was completed in the past week to add to the ten players who agreed long-term contracts in 2013. Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU, confirmed that there was scope to contract additional players if the coach wished.
The seven newly-contracted players are Marcell Coetzee (loose forward), JJ Engelbrecht (centre/wing), Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf), Patrick Lambie (flyhalf/fullback), Willie le Roux (fullback/wing), Coenie Oosthuizen (prop) and Flip van der Merwe (lock).
In addition, experienced Springbok wing JP Pietersen, who is expected back in Durban from his Japanese club in the coming weeks, has already committed his future in South Africa by signing a national contract for 2015.
“I am delighted that we have been able to conclude the contracting of a core Springbok group so early in the year,” said Roux. “In the past discussions have gone on for some months for different reasons at different times. We invariably reached agreement but we are pleased to have been able to conclude this very important matter so early in the year.
“A lot of hard work was put into finalising these contracts late last year and we would have made the announcement at that time but for needing one player to come back from leave and put pen to paper.
“The core group of Springboks are now nationally contracted, which bodes well for the next two seasons as we step up preparations for the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015.”
Those players previously contracted were: Willem Alberts (loose forward), Jean de Villiers (centre), Bismarck du Plessis (hooker), Jannie du Plessis (prop), Eben Etzebeth (lock), Siya Kolisi (loose forward), Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Frans Steyn (utility back), Adriaan Strauss (hooker) and Duane Vermeulen (No 8).