JOHANNESBURG - Playing up north is not a bad thing, in fact it has been good for the Springboks with England-based Willie Le Roux and Faf de Klerk having had a major influence on the South Africans' series win over the English. This is the view of former England international Nick Easter.
The man who played in three World Cups and earned over 50 caps for England, believes that Le Roux and De Klerk’s time in the English Premiership has made them better players. And Easter believes South African players and teams will be better off playing in Europe. Le Roux has been the fan favourite since joining Wasps last year and his return to the Springboks after missing out on selection last season has been immense not only as a senior member of the squad but in how well he played alongside debutant wings Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi in the first two Tests against England.
De Klerk was one of the standout players in the Premiership last season and was shortlisted for the player of the year award after his performances for the Sale Sharks.His time up north proved valuable for the Springboks as the diminutive former Lions scrumhalf put up a man-of-the-match performance in the first Test and allayed any fears of a void at number nine with assured showings in the series.
Easter, who is now the defence coach at Harlequins, said he was pleased to see the Springboks return to rugby’s top table but believes the South Africans will face a massive test in the Rugby Championship especially without Le Roux and De Klerk. “First of all, I’m really pleased for South African rugby. As an Englishman that sounds weird," said Easter who is visiting the Sharks and Bulls to learn and develop as a coach.
"Llike, 'what is he saying?' But the last two years you guys have been in the doldrums so to have the Bokke back is great. There is a long way to go and you have the Rugby Championship and those England guys (Le Roux and De Klerk) that starred for you won’t be available. It is great to see them back as a force, in the future and leading up to the World Cup,”
With the Cheetahs and Southern Kings already playing in the PRO14 in the northern hemisphere, Easter is adamant that the survival and thriving of South African rugby would be for more teams like the Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers to go up north and abandon Super Rugby whose travel schedule is unkind to the well-being of South African players. Besides the benefits for player welfare and the highly competitive rugby being played especially in England where Le Roux and De Klerk ply their trade, Easter believes that South African teams playing in Europe will also help swell their cash strapped coffers.
“I think it is the future. Some of the stuff I’ve learnt in the last 10 days is how brutal the travel schedule is on you guys. You think it is an 11 hour flight over there and everything but until you see how much it takes out of a working week for South African sides, it makes much more sense financially and logistically for them to actually join a European competition and I definitely think it is the future. When it happens, I don’t know.”