If you watched the European Cup final on Saturday you would have seen Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Joe van Niekerk in action for the champions, Toulon. All three had big parts to play in the victory over Clermont.
They are just three of hundreds of South Africans who play in Europe. There are also a good number who have made Japan home, among them Jaque Fourie and Fourie du Preez – and there are more Saffers on their way to the land of milk and honey, if you’re talking money.
It is one of the consequences of professional rugby and the big bucks that can be earned in other parts of the world why so many born-and-bred South Africans leave our shores. And as much as local administrators would love to keep the best players involved in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, there is very little they can actually do about it.
Australia and New Zealand are also suffering, but with the first Test matches of the year around the corner I can’t help but wonder what impact this has on the national teams, and in this case the Boks.
If Botha, Rossouw and Van Niekerk were still playing in South Africa would they not be of immense value to the national team and to those young players coming through the systems? There’s a shortage of quality, experienced locks and someone of Botha’s calibre would benefit the likes of Eben Etzebeth and someone like Cheetahs young gun Lodewyk de Jager.
The same goes for Du Preez. I’m sure he could still be playing for the Boks, but he has tons of experience and wisdom to share with the scrumhalves coming through the ranks.
And surely these veteran players could still boost the Boks. South Africa’s aim is to become the world’s best team and be a serious challenger at the World Cups, but for this to happen coach Heyneke Meyer should surely be picking his strongest side, irrespective of age and location.
It will be interesting to see what Meyer does in the coming weeks when he names his Bok squads, first for the June Tests and then for the Rugby Championship. Will Bath-based Francois Louw get a look-in, and so too Ruan Pienaar, who plays in Ulster? And we have all those props, including Gurthro Steenkamp and Heinke van der Merwe, who play overseas too.
Will Du Preez get a call-up and is there an outside chance of a November tour appearance for a player like Schalk Brits?
I can’t help but wonder what an overseas-based Bok team would do against a SA-based Bok team – leaving me asking myself why Meyer, or any Bok coach, doesn’t just pick the strongest, most experienced and skilful South African side for Test matches, no matter where the players are based. - The Star