Foreign Boks ‘OK for present’

Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Cape Town -- The Springboks are once again likely to field a match-day squad on Saturday liberally sprinkled with overseas-based players ... but SARU has reiterated its green light for coach Heyneke Meyer’s approach to the matter.

South Africa tackle Australia in the Castle Rugby Championship at Newlands (17:00) and the Bok match 23, to be revealed later on Wednesday, is likely to feature at least seven players already based with foreign clubs and another, Zane Kirchner, who very shortly dons a Leinster jersey.

But SARU CEO Jurie Roux has confirmed to Sport24 that the organisation is on the same page as Meyer over the policy, while admitting that “there is a more than average number” (of overseas-based players) in the mix this year.

Speaking during an in-depth interview with this writer a few days ago, Roux said: “It is a fear internally as well. We’ve got more than usual right now, but that’s partly because many of the guys played half of the year domestically (in Super Rugby) and then left -- you can’t simply take a dozen or so Springboks out of the team suddenly and then start with a fresh side.

“Hopefully the number of overseas players being selected will taper down as the new crop of youngsters comes through for contention in specific positions.”

He also said it was unrealistic to draw straight comparisons between South Africa’s reasonably flexible approach and the tougher stance adopted by the likes of SANZAR partners New Zealand and Australia.

“If anyone thinks we are (more open to) selecting overseas players than Australia or New Zealand, you must remember that for proximity to Europe we are so much closer in time zone terms – for the other SANZAR countries to pick players based in England, for instance, for a Test match is much less feasible as the amount of travel and adjustment involved makes it much more (unattractive).

“The only place those countries can perhaps offset it a bit is for picking players from Japan, which is much closer to them in every respect.

“Yes, we are a bit more open to the practice at the moment but that’s more a short-term thing than anything else.

“The internal rule very much remains: if there’s a better Bok inside the country, you select him first. There’s always the drive for the local player.”

Roux praised the Bok coach for “working very well within the structures”, saying Meyer would not be selecting players from abroad if he did not have the permission to do so.

“He put a case forward, we listened and said ‘this is acceptable for the moment’. But we will revisit that for every tour, every time we have to examine (the issue).

“Heyneke does get challenged on it ... by selectors, by the technical committee. It will never be a free-for-all.

“Being ignorant to our geographical position in the world, a comfortable enough flight away from so many places, and the currency people can earn even for a short-term contract abroad, is also counter-productive.

“Another phenomenon to bear in mind is that the really good players never stay (overseas) for that long ... they tend to come back quite quickly.

“And do you want a winning team or not? Yes, there are arguments within (that argument), but it is also not something you can blithely ignore.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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