Rugby - Injured Habana ruled out of Springboks squad

Winger Bryan Habana has been ruled out of the Springboks' November Tests with a knee injury and is the biggest absentee from the 31-man squad announced on Sunday.

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Bryan Habana (AFP)

Habana, South Africa's leading Test try-scorer with 47, injured his knee during Saturday's Currie Cup final.

Five uncapped players have been called up while South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer also selected four Europe-based players with hooker Schalk Brits (Saracens), flanker Francois Louw (Bath), scrum-half Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), and prop Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse) all included.

South Africa will play three Tests starting against Ireland on November 10 in Dublin before taking on Scotland on Nov. 17 and England a week later.

Nineteen-year-old wing Raymond Rhule is the youngest of the new caps and he is joined by scrum-half Jano Vermaak, lock Franco van der Merwe, utility back Lionel Mapoe and number eight Arno Botha.

Meyer said that his hand in selection had been forced by an ever-lengthening injury list which includes hooker Bismarck du Plessis, lock Andries Bekker, loose forwards Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow and Pierre Spies, fly-half Johan Goosen, inside centre Frans Steyn and Habana.

"Obviously losing so many players to injury... makes it difficult, but this now provides opportunities for other players," Meyer said in a statement.

Meyer explained that the inclusion of Brits, who played the last of his three Tests in 2008, and Steenkamp would add some much needed experience.

"Gurthro and Schalk are experienced front rankers who have played for South Africa before and know the conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. This tour provides a good opportunity to assess them as we plan ahead," he said.

Meyer added that the tour would provide a base from which to prepare for the 2015 World Cup to be held in England.

"Our aim is to end the season on a positive note. We set ourselves high standards and we want to improve with every Test, but we have a team that is still gaining valuable experience as we strive to constantly be amongst the top sides in the world.

"We know we're not there yet, but we've laid a foundation in the first nine Tests this year and we will build on that.

"The World Cup in 2015 also takes place in England, so we will use this tour to see how our players adapt to the conditions as we look ahead to that very important tournament."

South Africa squad: Willem Alberts, Arno Botha, Schalk Brits, Pat Cilliers, Marcell Coetzee Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (capt), Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Raymond Rhule, Morne Steyn, Jaco Taute, Jano Vermaak.

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