Ireland's Cian Healy and Richardt Strauss (right) look dejected after losing to Argentina at the 2015 World Cup. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Boyers

DUBLIN, Ireland  – Former Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss says it felt "natural" to play for his adopted country Ireland after realising that he didn't have a future in South African rugby.

Strauss – who is the cousin of former Springbok captain, Adriaan – left the Cheetahs to join Leinster in 2009, and he told the Irish Times that Ireland had quickly felt like home.

“It might sound strange but everything felt really clean here. When you walk around the streets in South Africa in certain parts of the country it looks dirty and a bit scruffy but here everything felt so fresh and open.”

After qualifying to play for Ireland, Strauss rather ironically made his Test debut against South Africa in November of 2012.

Strauss says he taught himself the Ireland national anthem and had no mixed feelings when coming up against his home country: “I’d made the decision that I was finished with South African rugby and playing for Ireland felt natural.”

Less than a year after making his Test debut, Strauss suffered a serious health scare after being diagnosed with a heart condition that required surgery. However, Strauss recovered to be able to make a return to action and has gone on to play 17 Test matches.

The former Grey College pupil officially became an Irish citizen in 2015, and says that political uncertainty in South Africa was one of the big reasons he left his country of birth.

“The big thing in South Africa is the corruption but there are also so many people suffering who don’t have money or electricity. There’s no infrastructure and the schools are falling apart.”

And although the qualification period for 'foreigners' is soon set to change from three to five years in world rugby, Strauss questioned what effect that might have.

“It’s a weird debate because the rules say you have to be here three years so if you’ve served your time, what’s the problem? If they want to make the time period longer, that’s fair enough, but players are just going to come over here younger.” 

African News Agency (ANA)

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