Second Phase

Get ready for the Euro-Boks

Thu, 01 Aug 2013 14:01
Bryan-habana-boks-run Morn_-steyn-boks-hands-on-h Juandre-kruger-boks-hand Bryan-habana-toulon Juandre-kruger-looks Morne-steyn-bulls-kicks
Michael de Vries selects his Euro-based Bok team
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While the number of top players leaving South Africa for Europe may be alarming, it is not likely to have an impact on the Springboks.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer is due to name his squad for the Rugby Championship this weekend, and one of the more interesting aspects of that selection will be how many European-based players he includes.

The Bulls alone said goodbye to eight Springboks this week, with six of them heading to Europe - which leaves them still eligible to play for the national team.

Meyer's official party line is that he will only consider overseas-based players when there are no suitable alternatives plying their trade in South Africa.

A good example of this was the success that Bath openside flank Francois Louw enjoyed on the side of the Springbok scrum last year. Louw combines the physicality that Meyer values so highly with good skills at the breakdown and was one of the most impressive players in the Bok coach's first year in charge.

While his selection proved to be an inspired one which made the Bok team more competitive, it did set a precedent in that if you are good enough you can have the best of both worlds by getting paid vast sums for your services in Europe and keeping your place in the Bok side.

South African players moving to Europe may not be something new, but what has changed is the average age of those leaving.

Where it once was a nice bonus at the end of your career or an option for those not likely to crack the national side, more players are leaving in their prime as they know that they can still keep their spots in the Bok squad.

Bryan Habana, Juandre Kruger and Morné Steyn were all key players for Meyer last year, and although they are all currently busy doing pre-season training with their French clubs, it probably will not be too long before they are back in South Africa preparing to take on the All Blacks, Wallabies and Pumas.

Players that move to Japan know that they are giving up their chance to be selected for the Springboks as it is part of their contracts that they must be eligible only for the club that pays their considerable wages.

This is why Meyer had to do without the services of Jaque Fourie and Ryan Kankowski last year, despite regularly calling on the likes of Louw and Ruan Pienaar, and it is also why we will not see Andries Bekker or Heinrich Brüssow play for the Boks this year.

Things are a little different in Australasia, as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie have to rely on locally-based players, so it will be interesting to see what impact the different selection policies in the respective SANZAR nations have on the strength of rugby in those countries.

Meyer has said time and again that he wants to pick the best available team to represent the country, and which coach wouldn't? But some will say that picking European-based players for the Springboks is sending out a dangerous signal which could ultimately have negative consequences for rugby in South Africa.

Possible European-based Bok team: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Joe Pietersen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12, Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 CJ Stander, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Ernst Joubert, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Doppies Le Grange.

By Michael de Vries

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