Frans Steyn will join teammates Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel in heading to Japan after this Super Rugby season, but he will return to the Sharks in time for next year’s competition, while remaining available to the Boks for the World Cup next year.

Whereas Deysel and Daniel have both signed two-year deals with Japanese clubs, Steyn will embark on the sort of “sabbatical” that has seen JP Pietersen and Ryan Kankowski spend six months abroad before returning to the Shark Tank.

Sharks’ director of rugby Jake White said he’d been kept abreast of Steyn’s thinking about the decision.

“He doesn’t want to leave the Sharks (long term) but, like many other players, he sees a new opportunity overseas and also some financial gain.

“(Bok coach) Heyneke (Meyer) seems to have the policy that he will pick overseas-based players, so I guess Frans is hedging his bets on the basis that if he goes and plays well enough, he will still get picked for the Boks. You can’t begrudge him that.

“However, it is very difficult as a South African franchise coach (to retain players) if the policy of the South African Rugby Union is to pick overseas-based players,” White said.

With Japan increasingly becoming a destination of choice for South African players at various stages of their career, there will always be a debate over the benefit of spending time in the less-challenging Japanese leagues.

“JP and Ryan are the only two guys from our squad who have been based in Japan up to this point, so it’s been hard to judge on the merits of playing there. But it can be both good and bad, I guess,” White said.

Yesterday, Steyn scored 17 of the Sharks points as the Durban side got their overseas tour off to a winning start, defeating the Rebels 22-16 in Melbourne. - Independent on Saturday