‘Best players must play for Boks’

Four former Springboks on whether overseas-based players should be picked for the national team.

Stefan Terblanche (former Bok fullback)

‘I’ve always been of the opinion that the best players should play for the Boks [whether they are playing at home or abroad]. I know it’s not ideal for our domestic game if the top players are playing overseas, but rugby players have a short rugby lifespan, which is getting shorter, and you can’t deny them the opportunity to earn as much money as possible. I certainly think Allister [Coetzee] should look at selecting overseas-based players at least for this year, as he's only had a very short time to prepare the team for the series against Ireland. Bringing in senior players with experience who are comfortable with the Springbok set-up will help him in his first year in charge while he’s still finding his feet. I do, however, think SA Rugby needs to make a ruling in terms of players’ eligibility to play for the Boks if they are playing club rugby overseas; either you won’t be allowed to play for the Boks or you will need to have played a certain number of Tests to be eligible, like Australia have done with their players. To limit the number of overseas-based players allowed to be picked for the Boks could be a good idea, but it can also be difficult when you’ve created that expectation for a player but then have to tell him that there’s no space because you’ve reached the limit of overseas-based players in the side. First prize is to have all our players playing domestic rugby, but we know that is very unrealistic given the weakness of the rand.’

Joel Stransky (former Bok flyhalf)

‘Overseas-based players should not be overlooked, they are professionals and need to make money while they can because they have a limited rugby lifespan. However, my overriding view is that if we are to have a strong domestic competition and breed youngsters who come through a strong system and develop into strong players for the future we are going need our best players to stay in the country and help with that development, so that when players step up to Test rugby they are mentally and physically ready having come through a tough system. Maybe the fault is in our systems at home, we need to look at improving that so we can pay the players more to stop them from going overseas. The system Australia has adopted by allowing players with 60 or more Test caps to play overseas and still be eligible for the national team is a good one and could be good for the Boks. It says to your global stars, who can demand huge salaries, that they have now played X number of Tests and earned the right to play overseas and still represent their country. But at the same time if you’re a young guy and want play for the national team, you need to show your loyalty by going through the process of playing at the different levels in the domestic scene.'

Mark Andrews (former Bok lock)

'As a purist, I'd prefer all Springbok players to be selected from South African teams, but as a former player I also know that there is not enough space at our unions for the all the professional players our country produces. It would be unfair to punish a player for moving abroad to get more game time while earning a better living, because SA Rugby can't match the salaries offered by overseas clubs. If overseas-based players are selected, there shouldn't be a limit on the number of individuals or a specific number of Test caps already won; such a law places youngsters like prop Steven Kitshoff at a disadvantage. Judging by the performance of South Africans in the European finals last weekend, there will be a few overseas-based players selected in the Bok squad and it will be nothing more than they deserve. If you are South African and your form warrants selection, regardless of where you ply your trade, you should be selected for the Springboks.'

Breyton Paulse (former Bok wing)

‘Overseas-based South African players should be selected for the team, we live in a professional era and more players are leaving at a younger age to play abroad and earn a living. I don't think we need to follow Australia in terms of only allowing players who have a certain number of Test caps to be eligible for selection if they play club rugby overseas. If the coach and selectors feel that player is good enough for the Boks then it doesn't matter where he plays his rugby, they should pick him. We also shouldn't limit the number of overseas-based players in the side, but I do think players playing locally should get preference for Bok selection.’

Interviews by Tyrone Engel

Photo: Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images