JOHANNESBURG - The 30-Test rule for Springbok eligibility may still officially be in place but new Bok boss Rassie Erasmus has basically been given the all-clear to pick whoever he wants, from whichever team he wants, ahead of next year’s World Cup in Japan.
While it was announced some time ago that if Erasmus could motivate why he wanted to pick a player without 30 Test caps from abroad for the Boks he would be allowed to pick that man, but the “rule” around that appears to have weakened even more.
Now Erasmus can select anyone from an overseas club he wants to have a look at, even if that player has no Test caps.
This much was confirmed by SA Rugby president Mark Alexander on Wednesday, paving the way for several Europe-based men to be included in the Bok squad for next month’s Tests against Wales and England, and beyond.
“Rassie has got a year to prepare the team, and in this, the last year (before the World Cup) he’s allowed to pick players locally and abroad,” said Alexander.
“He’s been speaking to some players (overseas) and we’ve given him leeway to do that.
"He only has 18 Tests between now and the World Cup and he wants to give everyone an opportunity to be seen to make the Springbok team.
“There’s no limit on the number of players he can pick (from overseas).
"There’s an agreement for him to perform and we don’t want to limit him in that regard. He has access to the (overseas) players and can utilise them when and how he requires.”
Already there has been talk of Erasmus including several Europe-based men in his teams for the one-off Test against Wales in Washington on June 2 and for the three-match series against England thereafter, but more overseas-based men may even feature in the Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.
Europe-based players the Bok boss may be interested in, either for the June Tests or later on, include Frans Steyn, Juan de Jongh, Vincent Koch, Duane Vermeulen, Bismarck du Plessis, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Willie le Roux and perhaps also JP Pietersen, Pat Lambie and Ruan Ackermann.
Erasmus is set to name his first Bok squad, possibly consisting of as many as 40 players, on Saturday, May 26, a week before the match in Washington.