De Villiers included 18 members of the 2007 squad while 12 of the players named, including captain and hooker John Smit, were in the starting XV when South Africa beat England 15-6 to clinch the title four years ago.
"The squad has a backbone of proven title-winning ability and experience as well as a strong component of new stars," De Villiers said in a statement.
The World Cup in New Zealand starts on September 9.
De Villiers opted for a 16 forward and 14 backs split in his squad with the team opening their campaign against Wales in Wellington on September 11.
The Springbok selectors sprang one surprise when they included flanker Francois Louw who has not played for his country in more than a year.
Louw, 26, the former Stormers and Western Province flanker, who recently signed for English club Bath, played the last of his seven tests for South Africa in August 2010 when he turned out against New Zealand in Johannesburg.
Fellow loose forward Schalk Burger was also included despite not having played since breaking his right thumb during the Super Rugby semi-finals on July 2.
"This squad has the experience and ability to make a strong challenge for the title but we know it will be very difficult," said De Villiers.
"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."
South Africa, who are in Pool D with Fiji, Namibia, Samoa and Wales, are seeking a third world title after success in 1995 on home soil as well as 2007 in France.
"I hope having so many players back is a factor and certainly we can rely on that experience when things get tough. We can draw nicely on that experience for seven weeks because it's inevitable that we will hit speed bumps," Smit told a news conference.
Smit has been under increasing pressure with many South African commentators saying he did not deserve his place in the squad on playing form alone.
"There are many people passionate about rugby in this country and everyone would choose a different 30-man squad. Everybody is welcome to their opinion and no player has ever picked himself in the last hundred years of Springbok rugby. I certainly didn't," Smit said.
The 33-year-old said the Springboks would not win the World Cup by merely focusing on what worked for them in 2007.
"We mustn't just talk about experience too much, it's up to us to go out and ensure we show it and produce it when it counts. I'm sure there are comparisons to 2007, particularly in terms of the run-up and the last couple of seasons we've had, but if we look for them too much we'll head down the wrong track. We need to move our thinking away from similarities and on to what will win it this time," he said.
Backs: 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.
Forwards: Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, Danie Rossouw, Jannie Du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, John Smit (captain), Tendai Mtawarira, Guthro Steenkamp.