Saffas abroad have made their mark

The performances of European-based South Africans bode well for the Springboks’ hopes for the 2021 British & Irish Lions series, writes DYLAN JACK.

Following the highs of 2019, the Springboks have had to settle for a year with no Test action in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An opportunity to play in the Australia-based Rugby Championship (which became the Tri-Nations) was turned down due to concerns about player readiness, with a domestic competition in South Africa getting under way only in October.

This has led to fears that the Springboks could enter the historic Lions series slightly undercooked, especially when compared to their opponents, who have been able to play regular Test rugby this year.

However, those fears can be eased by the form of the many European-based Springboks, with the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth, Cobus Reinach and Damian de Allende all playing excellently for their respective clubs.

Coetzee, in particular, has stolen many a headline with his performances for Ulster as the Irish sides have dominated a 12-team Pro rugby tournament. This included a landmark 50th appearance for Ulster, which Coezee marked by becoming the first player at the club to score four tries in one game.

Meanwhile, De Allende has enjoyed a fine start to life with Munster, after completing his move to Ireland from Japan. Over in France, and despite an injury-affected start to the season, Cheslin Kolbe has continued to make waves as one of the best players in the Top 14.

Kolbe’s Springbok teammates Cobus Reinach and Eben Etzebeth have also found form for Montpellier and Toulon respectively, while Dillyn Leyds has injected new energy into his career after joining La Rochelle from the Stormers.

As far as uncapped players go, Joseph Dweba has been putting his hand up for selection with his form after joining Bordeaux from the Cheetahs. Dweba has mostly been used as a substitute in France, but has been incredibly effective in this role.

With Felix Jones serving as the Springboks’ European-based consultant, which involves keeping an eye on the overseas-based Bok contenders, these players’ performances will certainly not be ignored when the team returns to action in 2021. 

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Dylan Jack