Springbok coach Peter de Villiers took aim at the standards of rugby in Europe on Monday, when he said that the South African players from abroad are behind their domestic counterparts.
De Villiers, addressing a media gathering in Cape Town ahead of the one-off Test against France on Saturday, left no doubt about his feeling regarding players who continue to ply their trade in Europe.
De Villiers pointed to the form displayed by French-based stars like Frans Steyn and Joe van Niekerk, as well as Irish-based players like CJ van der Linde and BJ Botha, in the 34-31 win over Wales at the weekend when he took aim at the Euro standards.
The Bok coach had initially names six players in the squad who played in Europe and Ireland – with Jean de Villiers (injured) and Butch James (ruled ineligible by Premier Rugby) missing the Cardiff Test.
While James, De Villiers and Botha were named in the squad for the remainder of the Boks’ June internationals, Van Niekerk, Steyn and Van der Linde have been axed from the squad.
De Villiers said Steyn was always only going to play the one Test, but admitted that the form of the Euro players also contributed to his latest team selection.
“I had a chat with Frans Steyn and we agreed that he will play this one game only,” De Villiers said, when quizzed about the Racing Metro utility back.
But he did not hold back when discussing the general standard of club rugby in the Northern Hemisphere.
“I was criticised for not bringing back players from abroad,” De Villiers said, adding: “But if you sit down and watch the game [against Wales] very closely, you will see the players from abroad were off the boil.
“They didn’t have the pace to play the game, they are not up there [up to standard] were they normally are.
“That is what overseas, especially Europe, are doing to our players.
“They won’t come back and be at the same level as the guys that are here [in South Africa]. We all saw that on Saturday.”
De Villiers admitted that Steyn will have to make a decision soon about his future, as his standards will continue to slip.
“That is why I am very worried about Frans [Steyn],” the Bok coach said, adding: “I don’t know if he should stay there for very long, if he wants to remain the best in the world.
“He and I had a nice chat and we have to make some decisions going forward – more him than me.
“When he left here he was the best in the world.
“He struggled a bit on Saturday, and you can see why – the level they play over there is so much slower.
“We can’t afford to miss a beat. The people in this country expects us to be the best on the world.”
He also made it clear that while Steyn was undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, players in the world, he is not irreplaceable.
“I don’t want to get caught up in individual performances – no doubt he [Steyn] is a brilliant player, and I’ll say it any time, but he is not irreplaceable.
“Look at the one Super 14 game, when Cheetahs fullback Rian Viljoen slotted a penalty from 60 metres. We do have players that can do those kind of brilliant things.”
Asked about other Euro-based players, like Van Niekerk, De Villiers said he will only look at those players if nobody is left in South Africa.
He said a player like Jean de Villiers was always going to return to South Africa and that is why he remained in ok frame.
“I had a long chat with Jean de Villiers after he signed [for Munster] and I knew from the outset he will be back by June 1,” De Villiers said.
The Bok coach also confirmed the well-know fact that James will to do everything in his power to come back to South Africa, but is tied up with Bath till 2012.
“We must support those players [who want to come back], but what we must understand is that if the players don’t play in the Super 14, they won’t be ready … unless we put them on special programmes. And how will you achieve that if they play for other people.
“We all saw it [that they are below par], I saw it on Saturday.”
Article courtesy of Rugby 365 editor Jan De Koning.Tweet