Cape Town - Powerful utility back Frans Steyn is considering his international future after being granted a release from the South Africa squad for this month's home tests against Wales and Scotland.
The Sharks player, who won the 2007 World Cup with the Springboks as a 20-year-old, asked to be released from the squad on Tuesday and the South African Rugby Union (SARU) confirmed they had accepted his request.
“The environment in the Springbok squad is fantastic and I would like to state categorically that my relationship with (coach) Heyneke Meyer, the rest of the management and my team-mates is very good,” Steyn, 27, was quoted as saying in a SARU statement.
Steyn - who is expected to take up a contract in Japan at the end of Super Rugby season - added that he wanted to reflect on his Springbok future but committed fully to the remainder of the Sharks campaign in the southern hemisphere club championship.
He had been managing a chronic knee problem that had made him touch-and-go for the June internationals before the squad was selected.
“I have spoken at length to Frans and we are happy to accede to his request,” SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said.
“He has asked for some time to consider his international playing future and we must respect that.
“Let me make it clear that he has not retired from international rugby, but he has requested a break from it.
“This is not an ideal situation, but, in other instances, sudden player absences through injury are not uncommon and I'm sure Heyneke and the selectors will adapt to his unavailability.
“Frans is now out of the squad and team management will respect his wish for privacy by not speculating on his decision or his likely return.”
Steyn was unlikely to start the first test against Wales in Durban on Saturday, which is followed by a second game against Warren Gatland's side a week later in Nelspruit.
The Boks' final June international will be played against Scotland in Port Elizabeth on June 28.