CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) World Cup winners Bakkies Botha, Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen were recalled to a 32-man South Africa squad on Monday for tests in Wales, Scotland and France as coach Heyneke Meyer continued to tap in to the experience of the victorious Springboks team of six years ago.
Veteran lock Botha, center Fourie and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, another 2007 World Cup winner who returned to the squad earlier this year, had all left South Africa to play for overseas clubs by the time Meyer took charge in 2012, but have been attracted back to reinforce the No. 2-ranked Springboks.
Pietersen hasn't played for his country this year after following Fourie and Du Preez to Japan.
The 34-year-old Botha's inclusion was the big surprise after he left South Africa to play for French club Toulon after the 2011 World Cup and had apparently called time on his international career after 76 tests.
"It will be great to have Bakkies, Jaque and JP in the squad, all of them are really excited to play for the Springboks again," Meyer said. "They have heaps of experience and are world-class players."
South Africa plays against Six Nations champion Wales in Cardiff, Scotland in Edinburgh and France in Paris on consecutive weekends from Nov. 9. The tourists are looking to repeat the unbeaten tour of Europe a year ago that capped Meyer's first season in charge, although Wales have won back-to-back northern hemisphere titles and South Africa hasn't beaten France in France since 1997 and, as usual, the South African players leave behind the summer sunshine of home for a European winter.
"We'll play in conditions we've not yet encountered this year, but we want to keep our positive mind-set on the field and hopefully keep on scoring tries," Meyer said. "We're up for the challenge. I know the players are keen to finish 2013 off on a high."
The Springboks also want to underline their place as the closest challenger to top-ranked and current world champion New Zealand, which they lost 38-27 to in Johannesburg this month in a test rated as one of the best ever. South Africa finished second to the all-conquering All Blacks in the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship, but believes it is closing the gap on the world's best two years from the next World Cup.
Along with the returning World Cup winners, Meyer named hooker Scarra Ntubeni as one of four uncapped players alongside prop Frans Malherbe, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder. Utility back Gio Aplon was back in contention and will travel after an impressive domestic season in South Africa, and promising flyhalf Johan Goosen returned from injury.
The 22-year-old Ntubeni was named in his first Springboks squad, while the other three uncapped players have been called in to the national group before. Du Toit is highly-rated and enhanced his reputation with an outstanding performance in South Africa's Currie Cup final on Saturday.
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolis, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Scarra Ntubeni, Coenie Oosthuizen, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs: Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers (captain), Fourie du Preez, JJ Engelbrecht, Jaque Fourie, Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Louis Schreuder, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn.