Overseas-based players to miss out on Springbok spots
JOHANNESBURG - If you want to play for the Springboks in future you’re either going to have to play within South Africa’s borders, or have at least earned 30 Test caps.
From July 1, following June’s three-Test home series against France, overseas-based players like Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch will no longer be available for the Boks and neither will other players currently contracted to overseas clubs, or heading that way soon.
Here we think of Cobus Reinach, Cheslin Kolbe, Jacques du Plessis and others plying their trade abroad.
The SA Rugby Union (Saru) confirmed on Friday that players earning foreign currency have to have at least played 30 Tests to be selected for the Boks.
However, in a World Cup year, the national coach will be allowed to pick whoever he wants, regardless of the number of caps a player has or where he plies his trade.
The decision is to halt the exodus to overseas clubs of South Africa’s best young players lured abroad more and more frequently.
“We are sending a message to young players that if they wish to play for the Springboks, then they must remain in South Africa,” said Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby.
“But we have also retained flexibility for the coach to select exceptional players who may be based overseas provided they have a proven track record of 30 Tests for the Springboks.
“How to balance the need to select the strongest possible team against the challenges of having such a large number of players based overseas has been a subject of long debate in our game.
“We have made this change in what we believe are the best interests of the Springbok team but we will review it periodically in conjunction with the national coach.”
The move could force some promising youngsters - or those close to breaking into the Test team or establishing themselves in the team, who’ve been thinking about signing for clubs in England, France and Ireland - to reconsider their future.
This group includes Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Handré Pollard, Francois Venter, Faf de Klerk, Ruan Combrinck, Jesse Kriel, Oupa Mohoje, Jean-Luc du Preez, and Malcolm Marx.
But the decision could well see more and more players going to Japan, where they will play in the months from October through January, and then still be eligible for Super Rugby and the Springboks.
Previously the Springbok coach was allowed to pick whoever he wanted from overseas teams, but it’ll be interesting to see if Saru’s stricter conditions will have the desired outcome - ensuring this country’s best young players stay and play Super Rugby and Currie Cup.
Also, with the coach being afforded the right to pick whoever he wants in a World Cup year, players could well decide to sign with overseas teams anyway and take their chances.
A 41-man Bok training group, minus the Sharks and Kings players, gather in Joburg for the first of three training camps from on Sunday.