SA Rugby opens door for Bok coach to call on overseas stars

Johannesburg - The door is wide open for Rassie Erasmus to pick an overseas player such as Faf de Klerk for the Springboks.

The executive committee of SA Rugby gave him the necessary approval to pick any player who might qualify for the Bok team, provided he gives valid reasons for that player’s selection.

The 30-Test rule still applies, but SA Rugby is willing to make exceptions under certain circumstances, which will make it possible for the Bok coach to pick the strongest possible team.

Erasmus recently held in-depth discussions with the executive committee about the rule, which was implemented before last year’s Test season to try to stop the exodus of players to overseas teams.

Former coach Allister Coetzee was unable to draft some of these players after the rule was implemented.

“Rassie spoke to us about it,” Mark Alexander, the president of SA Rugby, confirmed last week.

“The rule remains, but we will consider every request by Rassie on its merits. The Boks are SARU’s flagship and we will do everything we can to give them the necessary support.”

Erasmus will have to provide good reasons for picking overseas players such as De Klerk, Vincent Koch and Juan de Jongh, all of whom have played in fewer than 30 Tests.

They are some of the overseas players who could feature in his plans for June’s Tests against Wales and England.

In De Klerk’s case, Erasmus may be able to convince SA Rugby that the scrumhalf position is vacant. None of the local No 9s is standing out in the Super Rugby series.

Last year, Ross Cronje was the first choice scrumhalf, but he doesn’t feature in Erasmus’ plans at present. Cronje will not be attending the second Bok training camp next week.

Louis Schreuder and Embrose Papier are likely the strongest local contenders.

In an interview in the latest version of SA Rugby’s online magazine, springbokmagazine.com, Erasmus said they were working on a plan to manage overseas players.

“I’ve said before that all players who are eligible for the Boks should be considered, but we have to look at our home-based players first - and we have some wonderful talent playing here," said Erasmus.

“Having said that, I believe some of the more experienced players from overseas clubs can still add value, but they must be utilised correctly.

“In a World Cup year, we can use players with fewer than 30 caps, so we will probably have to test those players at some stage before the tournament in Japan next year. We are working on some plans to manage just that, while we also can’t neglect the players based in South Africa.”

The hard lessons that were learnt last year about the downside of the 30-Test rule might have influenced the UK’s decision to make certain concessions in future.

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