‘I’m so scared of going back to SA’

Ireland hooker Richardt Strauss says he won't return to live in South Africa because of the country's violent crime.

Strauss left the Cheetahs in 2009 to join Irish province Leinster, making his Test debut for his adopted country three years later against the Springboks in Dublin. He earned the last of his 17 Test caps against the Boks at Ellis Park last June.

The 31-year-old became an Irish citizen in September 2015 and says while he will go back to South Africa to visit family, he will continue to live in Ireland where it's safer.

'My family have been lucky, there’s been cars stolen and broken into, but no violent crimes,' he told The Times of London. 'I laugh at people who moan about things here in Ireland, what are you complaining about?

'Luckily, now I have citizenship, I can come back and forth without having to get work permits, I’m very happy to have that. It’s a big thing because I’m so scared of going back to [South] Africa and waiting for something to happen.

'If a violent crime happens it’s too late, isn’t it? It’s too late to make a decision then. My family have been lucky, it’s great to live where they are, there’s great weather, but there’s a certain element where you don’t know what’s going to happen.'

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Strauss says he is not the only South African expat to feel this way.

'I spoke to [Ulster scrumhalf] Ruan [Pienaar] and he’s convinced he’ll stay in Ireland sometime after he’s done,' he said. 'Willem Nel [the Edinburgh prop] says he’ll stay in Scotland. If they get the option they’ll stay, they’ll feel safer and their kids can play around in the streets and walk to school.'

Strauss also had a go at those who have complained about foreigners like himself and most recently CJ Stander playing for Ireland. 

'People will have an opinion, but what pisses me off, is a lot of people are saying it to get in the media, to have their name out there,' he said. 'If it’s that easy to become an international player it’d happen all the time. Ask them [critics] to pack their bags up and move halfway around the world at 21, 22 and see how it goes. Don’t move to France or England, where you’re an hour flight away. It pisses me off.

'They are looking into the rules now, which is fair enough, and if they change the rules, they change it. I didn’t come over and think. “I’ll play for Ireland in three years”, people aren’t that arrogant.

'It wasn’t in my decision-making, moving here to play for Ireland. I was just lucky enough to qualify and [Rory] Besty got injured. I’ve never regretted playing for Ireland for a second. Nobody is prouder than I am.'

Photo: Brendan Moran/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt