Potential mass exodus of Springboks looking for ‘change in lifestyle’

2009-07-24 00:00

FRANS Steyn and Jean de Villiers will be lost to the Springboks after the Tri-Nations, but SA Rugby officials are hoping to keep centre Jaque Fourie in this country.

French club Clermont hope to sign Fourie, but SA Rugby have offered the burly player a contract until after the 2011 World Cup while the Golden Lions are looking for sponsorship, which will keep him in Johannesburg on an improved contract.

De Villiers this week signed a one-year contract with Munster, Steyn is joining Racing Metro and a number of French clubs are reportedly chasing Bryan Habana.

A number of senior Springboks said they would be leaving South Africa after the British Lions tour, but would return to this country in time to play in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Andy Marinos, acting managing director of SA Rugby, said efforts are being made to keep the players in the country and told reporters that De Villiers and Fourie had been offered similar contracts.

De Villiers, he said, had been looking for a change in lifestyle in signing for Munster.

“It is not ideal for Springbok rugby. Players run the risk of losing their Springbok places, but then again, De Villiers could also return as a better player,” he said.

Fourie said that Bok coach Peter de Villiers’s preference for Adrian Jacobs at outside centre has not encouraged him to look overseas.

“I still think I’m the best outside centre in the world, that hasn’t changed,” Fourie told reporters.

He said that the motivation was about playing in a new environment and being with his family every day. But, he added, if he is satisfied with the offers from the Lions and SA Rugby, he would stay.

He confessed that he was delighted to be back alongside Jean de Villiers in the midfield for tomorrow’s Test against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein but said that the South African team would have to improve on their British Lions form to beat the News Zealanders.

The All Blacks, wrapping up preparations for the Test, said yesterday that the Boks would miss the physicality and high work-rate of banned flank Schalk Burger, particularly as they have captain Richie McCaw and Rodney So’oialo back in their side after injury.

“They [the Boks] don’t know how much they’ll miss Burger,” said All Black forward coach Steve Hansen about Burger.

“When you’ve played against the physical Burger, you know about it the following day,” said McCaw.

Hansen said that Heinrich Brussow had impressed them with his work on the ground but “It was too early in his career to compare him to Wallaby George Smith.”

All Black coach Graham Henry said the Boks had to be matched physically.

“Professional rugby at the top-level rugby is hugely physical and the people who set the standard are probably the Springboks,

“They are a very physical side, we appreciate that and we respect that. It is part of the game, and the guys are aware of that, they just have to come with a challenge, really.”

Henry admitted it was difficult to travel 18 hours immediately after a Test match and then to play at altitude.

“But there is no use complaining about it. We have to just get on with it.”

Bok vice-captain Victor Matfield said yesterday that he regarded the All Blacks as a greater challenge than the British Lions.

“It was a very big series for us against the Lions because it only comes around once in 12 years, but the level will definitely lift against the All Blacks. I still believe the Tri-Nations is the toughest competition in rugby,” he said.

“Playing the All Blacks is still the ultimate, to stand in your Springbok jersey and face the ‘haka’, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” Matfield said.

The Test kicks off at 5 pm tomorrow.

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