Boks in a catch-22

2014-06-22 15:00

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The perilous nature of having too many overseas-based players in the Springbok side will be starkly illustrated in ­Saturday’s test against Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

A large group will be unavailable because they have been called back to their French and English clubs.

Bryan Habana, Francois Louw, Bakkies Botha, Morné Steyn, Schalk Brits and Wynand Olivier cannot be selected because their clubs are exercising their right, under International Rugby Board (IRB) regulations governing availability for internationals, to recall them.

The IRB regulations include a “June window” for the ­playing of test matches in the southern hemisphere. It

stipulates that the test should be played over a period of three weekends.

New Zealand and Australia implemented the provision by playing three test series against England and France, ­respectively, but South Africa added an additional warm-up game against a World XV and will have to forfeit their European-based players as Toulon, Bath, Saracens, Stade Français Paris and Montpellier have insisted the players return.

A similar predicament will occur for coach Heyneke Meyer in the Rugby Championship, which starts in August, when the players who are based in Japan – Fourie du Preez,

JP ­Pietersen and Schalk ­Burger – will be unavailable for all the matches.

“We have reached an agreement with the South African provinces and certain clubs that their players may be made available for the Scotland match,” said SA Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux.

“The test against Scotland falls outside of the international window prescribed by the IRB and the French and English clubs have exercised their right to withdraw their players from the test, and we respect and understand that.

“All the matches during the Rugby Championship fall within the IRB window and players based in Europe and South Africa will be available for selection.” But he added: “Because of the special nature of the Japanese season – particularly its shortness – we have worked with the clubs to have players available for Springbok duty on an individual basis.”

That means Burger, Du Preez and Pietersen will be available for certain matches, as agreed with their clubs.

“All rugby World Cup matches fall within an international window and therefore all South African qualified players based anywhere will be available for selection,” Roux said.

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