Rassie Erasmus will not turn his back on overseas-based players who meet the 30-cap eligibility ruling as long as they can add value to the Boks, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The question over whether the Boks should be calling on the services of more overseas-based players has become a talking point that continues to divide opinions, particularly with more than 300 South Africans professionally plying their trade overseas.
In recent years, there has been a clear desire to offer selection preference to locally-based players, while last year SA Rugby enforced a policy that ensures that only overseas-based players with 30 Test caps or more can be eligible for the Boks.
However, that stipulation will be relaxed in a World Cup year, and it appears to have had little effect in plugging the player drain to overseas clubs, with an increasing number of talented youngsters still opting to head abroad.
Considering that Erasmus recently returned to SA Rugby after an 18-month stint as the director of rugby at Munster, he has seen first-hand the impact of certain overseas-based players from South Africa.
The likes of Jaco Taute, Jean Kleyn and Chris Cloete have all made a considerable impact at Munster, while English club Saracens, and French sides such as Toulon and Montpellier are all filled with highly-regarded South African players.
Ultimately, Erasmus will have a clear-cut idea of which overseas-based players he believes can still add value to the Boks. For one, he is believed to have been an advocate for Duane Vermeulen to return to South African from French club Toulon, while a player such as Frans Steyn could well come back into the selection mix.
When discussing this subject – which is likely to be a key focus of his portfolio as South Africa’s new director of rugby – Erasmus said SA Rugby certainly couldn’t afford to overlook some players completely if they could still add real value to the Boks.
‘There are probably about 10 of them [overseas-based players] who can play for the Springboks. I think sometimes we tend to make this big thing about losing players, but on the other hand, some people say we have too many professional players.
‘I just think we have to make sure that the best talent here will play, but if there is a player outside of that with more than 30 caps, who is fit, still wants to play and is conditioned suitably with the timing of the seasons, then we will certainly consider those players within the parameters that have been set. I’m definitely not going to overlook those players.
‘I think we can deal with the 30-cap rule, and then I think common sense must prevail. We can’t cut our nose to spite our face,’ he added.
Although Erasmus remains open to the idea of utilising a select group of overseas-based players should there be a need, he also insists that there are enough quality players in South Africa.
‘We definitely have the talent, and one of my driving forces is to ensure we tap into those resources. Sometimes it’s a challenge to manage so many players, but if we refine our structures and the way we’re working, we definitely have the players [who can perform for the Boks], and the structures really aren’t that far off.’
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