The call that 'saved' the Boks
CASTING THE NET WIDE: The decision to lift the ban on players based abroad is beginning to pay dividends for the Springboks.
South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus believes the ‘foreign’ Boks will play a big role for the World Cup holders in the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
Until 2018, players plying their trade outside South Africa were only considered for Bok selection if they had already played 35 Tests.
And then only a handful was utilised.
However, when Erasmus took charge of the national team the ‘ban’ was lifted and the proverbial borders opened.
In the 32-12 win over England in the 2019 World Cup Final in Yokohama six of the players were based abroad – Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Francois de Klerk, Vincent Koch, Francois Louw and François Steyn.
Another eight moved abroad since the World Cup – Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Rudolph Snyman and Franco Mostert.
Steyn has subsequently returned to South Africa.
Erasmus, addressing a virtual media briefing, said the large number of players based abroad is of benefit to South Africa.
“We are fortunate that we have players playing all over the world at present,” the SA Rugby boss said, adding: “As a result of how we are restricted, through COVID-19, of playing in South Africa – the local players have only been playing against each other.”
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He pointed to loose forward Jasper Wiese as an example of a player that grabbed the fortuity of playing against a variety of opponents and different competitions to advance his cause for Bok selection.
“These guys get exposure on the international [European stage],” Erasmus said.
“We also had two players who won the European Cup [playing for Toulouse] – Rynhardt [Elstadt] and Cheslin [Kolbe].
“I am sure a lot of our players will be in the Premiership Final, many of the players did well in Japan, Damian [de Allende] is doing really well at [Irish province] Munster.
“Locally there were a few young players who put up their hands.”
Erasmus and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber will unveil a squad of 45 next Saturday, June 5.
It will include the players for the Springbok Test team and the South African ‘A’ side to face the B&I Lions.
Erasmus said there are definitely some young guns that could feature against the tourists.
“There is some wonderful talent in this country, with some young talent coming through in the domestic competition [Rainbow Cup SA].
“The old dogs on the other side [playing abroad] are doing pretty well also.
“They [players based abroad] are playing consistently and they are playing against the B&I Lions players.
“Also, the guys in France play against them in the European Cup.
“The nice thing is those guys are in form and on top of their game, and we have got our local boys here playing trials every weekend.
“I think it is looking pretty okay [for SA Rugby].”
Erasmus and Nienaber have made extensive use of two European-based assistants – Felix Jones in Dublin and Andy Edwards in London – to communicate with the overseas-based players.
“Felix and Andy went to visit all those guys,” Erasmus said.