Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has revealed that there are club-related ‘issues’ which have contributed to the ongoing omission of World Cup-winner Frans Steyn. JON CARDINELLI in Padua reports.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when the 34-man squad for the four-Test tour of Europe was announced last month. The back division was patently short on experience and only one specialist inside centre, Damian de Allende, was included.
At the time, Coetzee explained the omission of Jan Serfontein, the first-choice No 12 and one of the Boks’ star players in the series against France this June. Serfontein has been given time to settle at his new club Montpellier while the Boks tour Europe.
The snubbing of Frans Steyn, of course, made even less sense. Steyn was part of the Bok side that won the 2007 World Cup, the series against the British & Irish Lions in 2009, and the subsequent Tri-Nations. The 30-year-old has extensive experience of northern hemisphere conditions and is currently playing for Montpellier, alongside Serfontein, in the French Top 14.
Pat Lambie, who has been to two World Cups and was Coetzee’s first-choice flyhalf in June last year, has recovered from injury and is playing for Racing 92. Why isn’t he in the mix?
‘They all qualify for selection,’ Coetzee said on Monday. ‘If you look at Jan Serfontein’s situation, he’s settling in at his club in France. He’s definitely not available.
‘I don’t think that Patrick has played more than three or four games [since returning]. We’re covered at the moment, though. If I do need other players to fill those positions then I will look at that.
‘Like I said before with Duane Vermeulen [who plays for Toulon], it’s also about training together with the team. You can’t bring them in in a Test week and get them up to Test standard. That’s why continuity is an important thing.’
At this stage, Steyn is unlikely to make a return to the Boks. Whether he features for South Africa in 2018 and indeed at the 2019 World Cup may depend on other decisions he makes around his commitment to Montpellier.
‘I had a chat to Frans Steyn recently,’ said Coetzee. ‘I don’t think the issues are all sorted out. We need to chat to his club about whether they will allow him to play or not.
‘These guys have long-term club contracts. Once they want to play for the Boks, you never know if they will retain their [club] contracts.
‘Even speaking to Duane … it was a bit of a battle to get him here with the team [last week]. It’s the player who must make the decision. Certain players are not clear-cut at their clubs, in terms of their futures, and they wouldn’t want to risk sacrificing that. So it’s not a clear-cut situation.
‘There is a regulation 9 that allows players to play Tests [during the international windows in June and November], now players have to make a decision, either I retire from international rugby or I give up my contract and look to go back to South Africa. I don’t know whether there is an alternative at this point in time.’
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