South Africa’s flyhalf stocks are taking a beating, leaving national coach Heyneke Meyer with almost no choice but to pick a seasoned No 10 from abroad.
The lure of the yen and euro is attracting more and more players from South Africa and in the last few weeks alone, three men who have worn the Springbok No 10 jersey have announced they will play part, or all, of their rugby on foreign soil in future.
Already Meyer is being forced to pick several overseas-based players for the Bok side, but he is set to come under increased pressure in this regard as more and more players opt out of Super Rugby and the Currie Cup.
Morné Steyn, first choice Bok No10, plays out of France, while back-up Johan Goosen is set to join Racing Metro in France following the Super Rugby season.
Goosen recently announced his move abroad and he was quickly followed by Frans Steyn – perhaps not a flyhalf by choice – who will move to Japan shortly and then this week Elton Jantjies disclosed that he will also play in Japan for the rest of the year.
The Bok future of the versatile, highly experienced Frans Steyn, who made himself unavailable for the Boks this week because of contractual issues with the South African Rugby Union (Saru), is unknown. His latest fall out with Saru could well see his international career come to an abrupt end.
Jantjies has been granted permission to “develop” in Japan after playing off the bench for most of the Super Rugby competition. His career has stalled since making his Bok debut two years ago. It is understood Marnitz Boshoff is now the Lions’ first-choice man, meaning the twice-capped Bok Jantjies would do more bench-sitting in the Currie Cup. The Lions felt it was better for him to grow, and at least get game time, elsewhere.
Another recent wearer of the Bok No10 jumper, Peter Grant, is also headed to France after finishing a stint in Japan.
Furthermore, one of South Africa’s most promising flyhalves, Sias Ebersohn, is playing at the Western Force in Australia. It would appear he is set on becoming a Wallaby after apparently declining several offers from this country to return and play Super Rugby and in the Currie Cup.
In the next few months, South Africa will have six No10s playing their rugby abroad – Frans Steyn, Morné Steyn, Jantjies, Grant, Ebersohn and Goosen.
The big winner out of all this is Pat Lambie. The Sharks man may be on the injured list and not featuring in the Tests this month, but once he is fit he will almost certainly have the inside lane to the Bok No10 jersey. Because let’s not forget that the adage, “out of sight, out of mind”, could ring true when Meyer starts making his plans for November’s tour of Europe and next year’s World Cup.
But while Lambie will be the only senior flyhalf playing all his rugby in South Africa – for the Sharks at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level – for how long will he still hang around here when rich European and Japanese clubs starting knocking on his door? It wouldn’t come as a surprise if he, too, moved abroad after next year’s World Cup.
South Africa’s next generation of flyhalves have already taken a few giant strides in local rugby, and even at international level, and it could be to these men the national coach looks to after next year’s World Cup. In fact, Meyer may already be considering Junior Boks captain Handré Pollard to represent the national side in the Rugby Championships against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in the coming months with him earmarked to be the first choice at the World Cup.
Boshoff of the Lions is also in Meyer’s thoughts and if he continues to develop as quickly as he has at Super Rugby level he could well be the next Bok coach’s first choice man from 2016. Young Robert du Preez, 20, who has moved from the Sharks to Western Province, will also be a factor going forward, especially as he is 1.92m tall and weighs almost 100kg.