SARU announced that the Springboks would release five players to their French clubs for a one off concession this weekend, after which they will join up with the Springboks in Brisbane. Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, Jano Vermaak, Juandre Kruger and Guthro Steenkamp will all be playing in France this weekend.
This may be a one off concession for the European based players, after the French clubs specifically requested the release of these players, but it could set a precedent going forward. The increasing number of foreign players in the Springbok setup may see this as SARU giving up on keeping the Springbok jersey for locally based players, and opening up a door for every single current Springbok to leave the country.
The Rugby Championship was designed to take into account the extended travel, having to travel to Argentina during a competition doubles the travel time, as well as allowing the players to have a weekend off every three weeks. The aim of this is surely to keep the players fresh and guarantee a greater quality of rugby to what we are forced to watch during Super Rugby.
Somehow though, the Springboks have not seen the reports about the amount of rugby being played currently, opting to allow key Springbok players to fit another match in during the running of the most important Springbok series of the year. This after yet another poor performance by the Springboks in Argentina, where last year’s draw looked on the cards yet again.
The debate surrounding the use of foreign based players has been an on going saga for a few years now, and my personal opinion has always been that it is a good thing. For rugby to truly be a professional sport, allowing players to be based anywhere in the world was a necessity. My opinion has changed slightly, as the powers that be have not properly controlled this.
Take Francois Louw for instance, his inclusion in the Springbok squad and subsequent play has been a revelation, and he is probably one of very few first choice, indispensable players in the squad. In that regard, foreign based players can add a completely different point of view to training while bring a different skill set to the table.
So it has it’s perks, but again, only if the players and the clubs are managed to the point where everybody knows that the Springbok cause is most important. What these five players will do is to disrupt their newly found clubs this weekend, and only join up with the squad on Monday, after travelling around the world in two weeks. Not to mention the training sessions they will be missing on Thursday and Friday, and the risk of incurring injuries.
When the news filtered through that a bunch of players would be allowed to play for their French teams, I was stunned. The stupidity of such a move is something to make my blood boil. How long will it take for the Currie Cup teams to request their players back for this week, whether due to injuries or simply to attract crowds. It is not so much this decision that has me doubting the administrators of our game, but their lack of logic and the fact that a decision such as this one could open the door to many other requests, which could be to the detriment of our game.
All in all, the foreign based player rule will come under scrutiny, and while decision are being made in the background to cap the number of players in a squad, we can only hope that the administrators remember about the Springbok emblem, and put its cause first and foremost.Tweet