Johannesburg - First, French rugby clubs were plundering South Africa’s leading rugby talent, now there is a growing list of players being picked up by rich English club sides.
Jaco Kriel could become the fourth Springbok to sign a contract with English club Wasps, which hopes he will join Willie le Roux, Juan de Jongh and Ashley Johnson from next year.
Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) and De Jongh (Wasps) earlier also confirmed their move to England.
The 27-year-old Kriel did not get much of a chance to play in the Boks’ French series because of a knee injury that also kept him off the field during the Super Rugby series.
The third Test at Ellis Park on Saturday would have been his eighth. Kriel will not be eligible to play for South Africa if he does decide to transfer to the Wasps because of the SA Rugby Union (Saru) policy that stipulates that only overseas Springboks with 30 or more Tests may be considered for the team.
Kriel would, however, have to do the maths as to his place in the queue for the number six jersey.
Siya Kolisi is the man in the saddle for now. If Marcell Coetzee and Francois Louw had not been injured, their availability may have precluded any sort of role for Kriel against the French.
It’s also unclear what the Boks’ plans are for the Bulls’ Roelof Smit.
He was out for a long time after a shoulder injury sustained in a match against the Barbarians last year.
Although he’s largely been carrying water bottles and tackle bags for the past three weeks, there is no doubt about Kriel’s abilities.
He has been the leading South African open-side flank this far in the Super Rugby series. According to Netwerk24, he got the ball 77 times and won 552m in 555 minutes of rugby.
Kriel also broke through the defence six times.
If the Lions are not successful in retaining Kriel with the help of a Bok contract from Saru, he probably won’t join Wasps before February.
Before that, he will still have to meet his obligation at Frans Ludeke’s Japanese team, the Kubota Spears.
Kriel has been playing for the Lions since 2010.
His possible departure will leave a big gap to fill, although Kwagga Smith last month showed that he has no plans to distance himself from the Lions’ number six jersey.
Rapport, City Press’ sister paper, understands that the English Premiership is in the process of softening its requirements for the contracting of overseas players, which could make it possible for an even greater number of South Africans to go there to play in the near future.
Other South African players and coaches who have recently signed contracts with English sides are Demetri Catrakilis (Montpellier) and Renaldo Bothma (Bulls), recruited by Harlequins.
After his Super Rugby duties with the Lions, Johan Ackermann will join Gloucester as head coach. JP Pietersen played for the Leicester Tigers for a season before signing a contract with French side Toulon.