De Villiers: 'Do not pick players based overseas'
August 16, 2013
Scrum-half Fourie du Preez is one of those Boks currently based overseas © Getty Images
Springboks captain Jean de Villiers has urged the South African Rugby Union to follow the lead of their rivals New Zealand and Australia in barring overseas-based players.
Speaking on the eve of his side's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Johannesburg on Saturday, De Villiers has made the surprising and headline-grabbing demand, that would impact on the international careers of many of his team-mates this weekend, because he believes the strength of South Africa's Super Rugby sides is being eroded by the policy.
A flood of players have left South African franchises since the Super Rugby season wrapped up last month with Boks winger Bryan Habana, lock Juandre Kruger and fly-half Morne Steyn among the latest to have accepted lucrative offers to play their club rugby abroad - joining the likes of scrum-halves Ruan Pienaar and Fourie du Preez, flanker Francois Louw and prop Gurthro Steenkamp - all of whom are set to feature against the Pumas - who already ply their trade overseas.
A total of 10 of coach Heyneke Meyer's Rugby Championship squad will be playing in Europe, the United Kingdom or Japan following the conclusion of the competition. In contrast, both the All Blacks and the Wallabies refuse to select overseas-based players in a bid to maintain a depth of local talent. "It is a massive issue and a massive problem at this stage because without a doubt the Super Rugby sides will be weakened a hell of a lot," De Villiers told New Zealand's Radio Sport.
On the issue of a possible selection shake-up that would see such players barred from playing for the Springboks, he added: "It's something that South African rugby is looking into. We can't go on like this. We have to keep South African rugby strong. For now, they're selected from abroad but going into the future I can't see that happening."
De Villiers, who featured for the Springboks during his one-season spell with Munster in 2009-10, added that the policy could not be implemented immediately because so many Springbok players had left Super Rugby clubs in recent weeks that it would drastically weaken the team.
"You don't want to change the team going into the Rugby Championship and play essentially second stringers, to put it quite harshly," he said. "It's something they need to look at. You want to be able to pay your players good money, you want to be able to keep them in South Africa and I suppose getting the payments right is the key."
Earlier this month, SARU chief executive Jurie Roux suggested the number of overseas-based Springboks could well be limited in the future. "Yes, it's something we are considering. But within the context of a constantly changing industry that is fast developing into a global sport rather than just being a national sport in terms of opportunities offered,' he told Die Burger.
"Players playing locally will always get first consideration, provided that the selectors have faith in their abilities. However, we are in a unique current situation with six players [Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Juandré Kruger and Chiliboy Ralepelle], who were part of the Bok squad this past year, now deciding to go overseas. You can't just replace so many players in the middle of the season. But these players know their chances of playing for South Africa in future cannot be guaranteed."
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