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Rugby Championship
Springboks free five to play in France
August 26, 2013
South Africa's Bryan Habana stretches the Argentina defence, South Africa v Argentina, Rugby Championship, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, August 17, 2013
Bryan Habana will make his debut for Toulon this weekend © Getty Images
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South Africa have freed five of the Rugby Championship squad to play for French clubs this weekend, the national rugby union said Monday.

The players affected are left-wing Bryan Habana, fly-half Morne Steyn, scrum-half Jano Vermaak, loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp and lock Juandre Kruger. Habana (Toulon), Steyn (Stade Francais), Vermaak (Toulouse) and Kruger (Racing Metro) are recent signings, while Steenkamp joined Toulouse two years ago.

"This is a unique situation and a once-off concession to these four French clubs," South African Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux said. "Most of these players recently joined the French league and although we could have opted to keep them with the squad, we decided to allow them to return to their clubs for matches this weekend."

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said last Friday that 2007 IRB Rugby World Cup winner Habana would make his French Top 14 debut at Grenoble this weekend.

"Bryan will play and it will be a great gift for the Grenoble treasurer. Bryan is paid by the club ... it is normal that he comes just like all the staff if asked."

The Springboks fly to Australia on Saturday for a Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane on September 7 followed by another against the All Blacks seven days later in Auckland. Roux said the five France-based South African stars would join the squad in Brisbane early next week if included in a squad to be announced on Wednesday.

South Africa defeated Argentina 73-13 at home and 22-17 away to earn nine points and lead the table on points difference from southern hemisphere title-holders New Zealand.

© AAP
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