VIDEO: Kleyn looking forward to 'bizarre' opportunity
Jean Kleyn will add his name to a small select group of players who have featured in World Cups for different countries when he starts for the Springboks against Romania in Bordeaux on Sunday.
Even more remarkable is the fact that he will do it in back-to-back World Cups – Ireland in 2019 and South Africa in 2023.
For the Linden (South Africa) born and schooled second row forward the two tournaments feel a ‘lifetime’ apart.
It was a change to World Rugby’s eligibility laws – something the South African Rugby Union initially objected to, but then embraced – that resulted in a surprise call from Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus back in May.
Now, four months later, the lock will make his first World Cup appearance for the Boks.
However, it is next Saturday, at Stade de France in Paris, where he will write his own, unique chapter in the tournament’s history.
“It’s not something I’ve thought much about,” Kleyn told @rugby365com, when asked about the prospect of facing the team he played for in 2019.
“I look forward to the opportunity if it does present itself,” he added.
“You want to play against the best teams in the world and I think Ireland is one of the best teams in the world at the moment so I’d love to play against them.”
Having played with a number of the Irish players at Munster, he has an intimate knowledge of their capabilities.
(WATCH as dual international Jean Kleyn speaks about the unique opportunity of featuring in back-to-back World Cups for different countries…)
“I’ve also played against all of them throughout the years – against Leinster, Ulster and Connacht, so I know the players well and I’m looking forward to the opportunity if it does present itself.
“It will be good.”
Asked if he will have any advice to his Springbok teammates ahead of next Saturday’s Round Three crunch match in Paris, he admitted he’s not the most ‘technical’ player.
“Analyses is not really my strong point,” he quipped.
“I will just try and throw my weight around as much as I can.”
Kleyn earned his first call-up to the national team this season, making his Springbok debut in the (43-12) Rugby Championship demolition of Australia at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, in July.
The towering Munster lock, however, enters his World Cup debut with some international experience, as he played five Tests for Ireland in 2019.
He may have changed allegiances, but his high work rate on the park and experience at club and international level, make him valuable to the Bok pack.
However, the two events – 2019 and 2023 World Cup tournaments – are far removed for the 30-year-old.
“It’s a bit bizarre,” he said, adding: “They feel so detached from each other because so much time has passed – in my mind at least, since the 2019 World Cup.
“As a person, I’ve grown so much and as a player, I’ve developed quite a bit as well.
“For me intrinsically I’m not the same person I was in 2019, it almost feels like it was a different lifetime.
“But obviously I’m really honoured to have played for Ireland and I’m delighted now to be representing my country of birth, South Africa, and it’s an opportunity I really relish.
“It’s a proud moment for me and my family to get my debut for South Africa at the World Cup.
“If you asked me three and a half months ago I would have said there’s no chance, it’s not even on the radar, so I’m delighted it’s happened, it’s an incredible opportunity,” he concluded.
* Picture credit: Steve Haag