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De Villiers fit again to lead Springboks in Rugby Championship

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Jean de Villiers returned from injury on Saturday and was restored as captain of South Africa's squad for the Rugby Championship against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

De Villiers was named skipper again after recovering from the left knee problem that kept him out of the Springboks' tests against Wales and Scotland in June, when veteran lock Victor Matfield led South Africa to wins in all four of its mid-year games.

Inside centre De Villiers was one of six players back from injury for South Africa in the 30-man squad, with forwards Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth, and backs Patrick Lambie and Damian de Allende also fit again and recalled.

Centre De Allende and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach are the only uncapped players in coach Heyneke Meyer's group. Reinach was called up after 2007 World Cup-winning scrumhalf Fourie du Preez was ruled out for six months with a right ankle injury, a big miss for the Boks. But the No. 2-ranked South Africa will be boosted by the return of powerful second-rower Etzebeth, who hasn't played this year.

The Rugby Championship starts Aug. 16 when South Africa faces Argentina at Pretoria and Australia hosts defending champion New Zealand in Sydney. South Africa will again search for a morale-boosting win over the No. 1-ranked and world champion All Blacks ahead of the World Cup next year. New Zealand won its third Rugby Championship in four years last season, winning six out of six games.

"We've been steadily improving over the past two years but another step-up is needed this season," Springboks coach Meyer said.

South Africa will not have flanker Schalk Burger and centre JP Pietersen available for the first part of the tournament, the South African Rugby Union said, with both due to report to their Japanese clubs next week.

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Squad:

Forwards: Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Lodewyk de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen.

Backs: Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn.

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