Local stars cross the pond

2013-03-10 10:00

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The lure of foreign currency will always draw players from South Africa.

Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn is the latest to dump the rand for the euro and he will not be the last one to do so.

Unlike the English county cricket first-class system, European rugby cannot be seen as a “finishing school” because of the type of rugby and weather conditions.

As much as English and Welsh summers are prone to rain, the variety of players and pitch conditions often rounded cricketers and made them better on return to international duty.

It goes without saying that rugby has a higher player turnover and the system is flooded with players who cannot all be retained.

A full spectrum of players ranging from grizzled veterans to untried youngsters make the trek across the continent.

Not even current internationals are immune from the exodus but is it a progressive career move?

Former Springbok centre Gcobani Bobo said such a move had more benefits than boosting one’s coffers.

“You get to spend more time with family and the media glare is much less,” Bobo said.

“With Morne having a young family and also a future to think about, it is the best time for him to go. He’ll have more time with his wife and he’ll travel more because Europe is the window to the world.”

Bobo’s opinion is well qualified as he moved to Newcastle Falcons after stints with the Sharks, the Stormers and the Lions.

One major complaint is that of the rather poor conditioning of players due to the overlapping seasons.

Sharks centre Frans Steyn was once criticised by former Bok coach Peter de Villiers for being out of shape while at French Top 14 club, Racing Metro.

The fraught De Villiers/Steyn relationship aside, Bobo said players get different experiences out of Europe.

“As an outside back, you will not get as much ball but your game management skills improve tenfold,” he said.

“When Percy Montgomery went to Wales, he came back a very different player because he had time to work on his kicking and his game. The lack of pressure of having to play for the Springboks week in, week out, also helps.”

New Zealand has a strict policy of picking home-based players and the enticement of the All Black jersey is often strong enough to stay on the island.

It is not as strict in South Africa, but Bobo said the decision should be up to the coach.

“If the coach doesn’t think he has the player suitable to his game or the overseas player is in much better form, it would be unfair for him not to reward the player who is doing well,” Bobo said.

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