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International border breakdown

The global village has made citizenship to foreign countries far easier for us mere mortals to attain, but these same rules are allowing national coaches to stretch their net far and wide.

 

There has long been a trend for older players to head to greener pastures as their careers wind down, swapping the hard grounds of the Free State and the high veld for the muddy pitches of England and the rolling hills of France.

 

This is usually in a bid to complete their retirement with a bit more cash in the back pocket – but this trend has evolved further as young talents are starting to be identified by big spending overseas clubs for long term deals.

 

This coupled with the residency requirements conveniently matching these contracts lengths (as spelled out by national coaches) often sees players picking up a brand new passport along with a grasp of the French language.

 

The situation came to a head recently when South African born scrumhalf Rory Kockott was included in French coach Philippe Saint-André's 30 man squad after becoming eligible to play for France earlier in the year.

 

This however is not a new phenomenon, with Brad Barritt (England), Quintin Geldenhuys (Italy), Mouritz Botha, (England) Pieter de Villiers (France), Robbie Diack, Richardt Strauss (both Ireland) and Justin Melck (Germany), to name a few, all born in South Africa.

 

Although this is not a new phenomenon, it is not uncommon either – one would only have to look at the All Blacks and their Islander imports.

 

The issue however is that international coaches are starting to assert their own influence over players, acting like recruiters through the clubs.

 

This has become most apparent with Welsh coach Warren Gatland setting in motion a long term plan to secure a new Kiwi flyhalf and South African Lock for the national team.

 

Gareth Anscombe was persuaded to join Cardiff Blues with the intention that, with his Welsh heritage, the former Chiefs back could be lining up for Wales very soon.

 

The same has happened to former Stormers lock De Kock Steenkamp who joined the Ospreys as a "time-server", which allows him to become eligible in three years.

 

This prompted former Welsh captain Michael Owen to call the ease of which players can jump nationalistic ship 'a joke.'

 

Should it really become so easy for players to give up on their dream of representing their nation of birth and substitute it for an adopted country?

 

Players such as Taulupe Faletau, who moved to Wales when he was seven, has been through the Welsh rugby system from the grass roots level all the way up and clearly has every right to play for the country.

 

However, when a player is fed up with one system, should he be allowed to change his national allegiances almost as easily as if it were a club?

 

Darryn Pollock

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