The decision to allow Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber to unconditionally select the best South African players based overseas transformed the Springboks from 2017 chumps into 2019 World Cup champs. It was a case of turning a problem into a solution. Never let it be any other way.
Forget the nonsense about a supposed lack of patriotism.
I’ve never known a South African player to turn his back on the Springboks. Those South African players good enough to be offered lucrative overseas contracts have always made themselves available for Springboks selection. There was a time when they weren’t selected as South Africa thought the best way to defend the ongoing raiding of the country’s best players, was to deny them the opportunity of playing for their country.
New Zealand does it and so does England. You have to be playing in those respective countries to play for the national team.
South Africa tried it. So did the Argentina Pumas and the consequence was disastrous for both teams. The Boks plummeted to seventh in the world in 2017 and the Pumas won four in 36 matches in selecting only from the Jaguares Super Rugby franchise.
Common sense had to prevail and fortunately it did, especially when it comes to the Springboks.
There is no way the Springboks would have come close to winning the World Cup in 2019, let alone qualifying for the final, if the overseas-based players were not selected.
Erasmus and now Nienaber found a balance between the best overseas and the best playing in South Africa. If it was a 50-50 call, the South African-based player got the nod. If there was a significant difference in quality in favour of the overseas-based player, he got the nod.
One of the most significant changes was in the way Erasmus interacted with the overseas clubs. It was a spin-off of his time spent coaching and heading up rugby at Munster in Ireland. Erasmus didn’t try and enforce anything. He worked alongside the respective clubs and was transparent in his communication in terms of his player identification.
The club coach knew the player was in the national equation and Erasmus shared his thinking with the coaches abroad.
Nienaber has continued the work of his predecessor.
The South African public have also matured and grown up when it comes to understanding the professional nature of the game and that the contracting funds within South Africa just can’t match the overseas offers.
Why punish a player who can get more overseas and why limit the prospects and power of the Springboks because of an outdated view that any player who cashes in on overseas club contracts is a disloyal servant of South African rugby?
I have always been an advocate of the value in our players going overseas and in an ideal world coming back to South Africa. We’ve seen the benefits in the past few seasons of just how much value these players add to the Boks, but also in how much better they are as players when they return to South Africa and play out their careers in South Africa.
Their growth as people adds to their growth as rugby players.
Nienaber’s 46-strong squad is an even split of overseas-based and local players. The balance is so in sync to form and also to maximising the potential of the Springboks.
It should only be allowed to continue and hopefully the outdated voices campaigning for domestic selection exclusivity among the Springboks have all been silenced.
There isn’t a Bok squad member who hasn’t improved since leaving South Africa and you only have to look at he value of those returning Springboks have had domestically, like Duane Vermeulen, Frans Steyn and Morne Steyn.
Both Steyns spent seven years in France, with Frans also having a season in Japan.
I don’t want to imagine a Springbok squad denied the players below because they earned their living playing domestic rugby outside of South Africa. The 23 below would beat most Test teams and they would certainly beat a match day 23 chosen exclusively from within South Africa.
Overseas-based Springbok squad players
Vincent Koch Saracens, (21 caps, 0 pts)
Coenie Oosthuizen Sale Sharks, 30 caps, 20 pts)
Joseph Dweba, Bordeaux-Bègles, (uncapped)
Malcolm Marx, Kubota Spears, (33 caps, 25 pts)
Lood de Jager, Sale Sharks, (45 caps, 25 pts)
Eben Etzebeth, Toulon, (85 caps, 15 pts)
Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Montpellier, (uncapped)
Franco Mostert, Honda Heat, (39 caps, 5 pts)
RG Snyman, Munster, (23 caps, 5 pts)
Dan du Preez, Sale Sharks, (4 caps, 0 pts)
Kwagga Smith, Yamaha Júbilo, (6 caps, 0 pts)
Jasper Wiese, Leicester Tigers, (uncapped)
Jean-Luc du Preez, Sale Sharks, (13 caps, 10 pts)
Rynhardt Elstadt, Toulouse, (2 caps, 0 pts)
Faf de Klerk, Sale Sharks, (30 caps, 20 pts)
Cobus Reinach, Montpellier, (14 caps, 30 pts)
Elton Jantjies, Pau, (37 caps, 281 pts)
Handré Pollard, Montpellier, (48 caps 457 pts)
Damian de Allende, Munster, (47 caps, 30 pts)
Jesse Kriel, Canon Eagles, (46 caps, 60 pts)
Outside Backs: Outside Backs:
Cheslin Kolbe, Toulouse, (14 caps, 40 pts)
Willie le Roux, Toyota Verblitz, (61 caps, 60 pts)
Makazole Mapimpi, Docomo Red Hurricanes, (14 caps, 70 pts)
*Stat breakdown courtesy of SA Rugby Mag’s Juandre Joubert.
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