Bath-bound Francois Louw, who has not pulled on the green and gold for more than a year is a surprise inclusion following the loss of Juan Smith to injury. Ulster captain Johan Muller has also been recalled.
"The squad has a backbone of proven title-winning ability and experience as well as a strong component of new stars," said De Villiers.
"Injury has denied us one or two players who could have been very important to us, but I am very happy with the squad we have picked. We have good coverage for every position and front line players who have shown over the past half dozen seasons that they know how to win big games.
"This squad has the experience and ability to make a strong challenge for the title, but we know it will be very difficult.
"It has been a tough season to date and we have had some challenges with the amount of rugby the players have had to play, but I'm very happy with the squad. We are on target with the off-field plans we set in place before the season started."
The Springboks kick-off their title defence against Wales in Wellington on September 11. They also face Samoa, Fiji and Namibia in Pool D.
SOUTH AFRICA 2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP SQUAD
Tendai Mtawarira, Guthro Steenkamp, Jannie Du Plessis, CJ van der Linde; Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, John Smit (captain); Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, Danie Rossouw; Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw.
Francois Steyn, Gio Aplon, Patrick Lambie, Bryan Habana, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen; Juan de Jongh, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers; Butch James, Morne Steyn; Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Ruan Pienaar.