Home Original RuggaWorld Content Eyeing domestic player movement under new Bok selection policy (updated)

Eyeing domestic player movement under new Bok selection policy (updated)


Having recently selected a Springbok side containing no less than 10 players contracted to oversea’s clubs, Heyneke Meyer has certainly set a new precedent for domestic players both young and older, who harbour Springbok aspirations.

Some like former Springbok coach Jake White have recently said the Springbok’s policy of picking overseas players is a ticking time bomb. A multi-faceted argument based on fears of player ‘drain’, weakened domestic competitions, decreased revenue  from sponsorship to broadcasting revenues and with it the very means with which to keep top-level players in the country. These concerns come directly from the sponsors themselves, scribes from NZAR Super rugby unions and not just the sage-like Jake White.

A perpetual ticking time bomb indeed.

On the  flip-side Ruggaworld’s own guru Morne has questioned just what type of effect this would have on all of the above, if any at all? He went on further to state that he thought such was the depth and structures in South African rugby, any perceived exodus due to these new policies would be sustainable. He sited the flow from Grant Khomo Week through to Craven Week, Club rugby, Varsity Cup, Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and to Super Rugby as being the means to consistently produce and sustain quality Springbok players capable of being world-beaters despite concerns.

Considering the antithesis of Heyneke’s new policy having being in effect for over a decade and only really starting in June this year, there really is no data to further any debate without being subjective.

In the next few years will there be a marked exodus of quality players. By quality I mean players of Super Rugby standard, capable of both keeping RSA Super teams winning and of course at the same time contributing to a world beating Springbok side? Will the quality of domestic competitions wane? Will sponsors pull their funds? Could this lead to NZAR finally splitting from SARU in Super rugby?

Right now the answers would be about as accurate as Mark Keohane’s ‘bones’.

It is for this reason I thought it would be handy keeping a running tab on this thread. Documenting every professional South African player leaving  to play in competitions and leagues overseas, rather than ply their trade domestically.Over the next few years, with particular emphasis on the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the new Super Rugby broadcasting rights renewal we should be able to draw some better data with which to see just what effect this selection policy has had on South African rugby domestically and internationally.

With that in mind I’ll start by listing the current South African players announcing their departure in June after Heyneke’s announcement of first test squads. As the list develops so to the means and method of data can evolve with it… a kind of living organism.

June 2013

Andries Bekker (Japan)
Meyer Bosman (Stade Francais)
Heinrich Brussow (Japan)
Kevin Buys (Brive)
Wesley Dunlop (Montauban)
Dewald Duvenhage (Perpignan)
JP du Plessis (Montpellier)
Burton Francis (Agen)
Bryan Habana (Toulon)
JC Janse van Rensburg (Bayonne)
Zane Kirchner (Leinster)
Juandre Kruger (Racing Metro)
Wandile Mjekevu (Perpignan)
Wynand Olivier (Montpellier)
Joe Pietersen (Biaritz)
JP Pietersen (Japan)
Jacques Potgieter (Japan for 6 months and then Saracens)
Chiliboy Ralapele (Toulouse)
Hendrik Roodt (Grenoble)
Wilhelm Steenkamp (Force)
Morne Steyn (Stade Francais)
Jano Vermaak (Toulouse)

July 2013

Robert Ebersohn (Montpellier)
Marcel Brache (Force)
Chris Heiberg (Force)
Wimpie VD Walt (Japan)
Riaan Viljoen (Japan)
Gerhaad VD Heever (Munster)
HP Momsen (Canberra)
Altus Momsen (Canberra)
Marco Kotze (Canberra)
JP Smith (Canberra)
Ruan Smit (Racing Metro)
Don Armand (Exeter)

August 2013
Conrad Hoffman (Brumbies)
Juan Smith (Toulon)

September 2013

Craig Burden (Toulon)
Cornell Du Preez (Edinburgh)
Lionel Cronje (Brumbies)




  1. I definitely agree with Jake White, and Morne is correct, there is depth in SA, but for that depth to be usable they need selection at the highest level, the fact is international careers are now shortened due to this migration, and that means you need to not only worry about two to three players per position ready for international duty, you will need to worry about at least four, at any given point in time you might lose two in a specialist position.

    SARU should have a similar squad policy as England have with the EPS.

    But organise friendlies against Other nations at least 10 per year and build a back up squad under the Springbok team, otherwise we certainly will regret this scenario.

  2. Of the Whole List I see a possible 8 that could make the Bok team, but then again on site alone most of these players is considered to be not good enough for Bok duty.

    My problem with all this is the Supershit teams. That is the stepping up from that a player needs to take before the Boks.

    I am a bit concerned that if we loose to many of the players in that that we will have sub-standard teams and I don’t care how good you are when a team goes bad and loose more than they win the players do suffer and it will effect the top players.

    I am real “Draad sitter” here, I hear Morne argument and understand his reasoning but when I look on black on white I can not say I am not worried for the Supershit teams and SA Rugby

  3. @Jacques(Bunny): I don’t think depth at super rugby will be an issue, it is true that we have oodles of talent, the one thing positive about the migration is that younger players will now get more opportunity, because of the fact that players leave their super rugby teams, young guys will get more opportunities and somehow I think we have enough depth to handle that migration from a Super Rugby point of view.

    But it is also true that we lose a lot of experience that could have been transferred to these younger guys.

    At test level the national coach will need to have more players at that level, a South Africa A side that plays 10 matches a year is the only solution to expose more players at top level.

  4. @biltongbek:

    ‘Quantity’ depth or ‘quality’ depth… these days even at Super level you have to have at least 5 ‘world-class’ players to be competitive ie finish in the top 6…


    Yep well I’ve been saying for years the Bok’s need a ‘real’ A side…

    The Emerging Boks side was designed as a Saxon’s (EPL) equivalent… and drew with the Lions… then went to a political window dressing vehicle playing the likes of Georgia… and at last count was full of amatuers that would never amount to even Super quality!

    But back to the above…

    Imagine how difficult it’s going to be to ‘quickly’ assemble a Bok training side for a quick brain-storm session when 50% are all around the globe in different comps… going to have to hire a team of negotiators then at every test season…


    “Of the Whole List I see a possible 8 that could make the Bok team ”

    No mate… of that list… 9 ‘ARE’ in the Bok squad some only missing do to injury… and 4 ‘ARE’ in the Bok 23…

    Add RP, FDP, Flouw, Steenkamp that’s 41% of the test team playing overseas… this is the start of the Bokbarians…

    And as I said above in the piece… it’s only early days…

    Now count the guys like JC Janse Van Rensburg and count how many are vital to their Super teams even if only the Lions?

    Early days…

  5. Assembling a squad at short notice now become a nightmare. And how long before players become ‘frustrated’ at the boks calling them up at short notice at attend that they see as pointless training events?

    I dont like players being treated with kid gloves. Yes HM’s situation might be a once-off but i am also concerned as to the precedent set.

  6. @Brendon: Reluctantly I understand the position MEyer is in, that doesn’t mean I like it.

    If it then has to be done, at least have goals in place to phase it out so by 2016, it isn’t necessary.

  7. @bryce_in_oz: what the hell are “Bokbarians”? this sounds just like one of your many ‘know-it-all’ creations.

    elaborate if you can.

  8. @CooleyHigh: I made it up earlier in the week.

    In lieu of the many clubs being represented in the Bok team. They are all going to wear their club socks. :Rule 9:

  9. SARU CEO Jurie Roux has admitted that the
    number of Springbok players plying their
    trade abroad may be trimmed in the future.

    Roux says that this selection policy may not
    remain going forward, with a limitation on
    players based abroad being pondered.

    “Yes, it’s something we are considering. But
    within the context of a constantly changing
    industry that is fast developing into a global
    sport rather than just being a national sport in
    terms of opportunities offered,” Roux told Die
    Burger .

    “Players playing locally will always get first
    consideration, provided that the selectors have
    faith in their abilities.

    “However, we are in a unique current situation
    with six players (Kirchner, Habana, Steyn,
    Vermaak, Kruger and Ralepelle), who were part
    of the Bok squad this past year, now deciding to
    go overseas. You can’t just replace so many
    players in the middle of the season.

    “But these players know their chances of playing
    for South Africa in future cannot be guaranteed.”

    Roux admitted that the mass of players moving
    overseas was of concern to SARU and is a point
    that will be investigated.

  10. @CooleyHigh:

    This past weekend.

    Racing Metro
    Stade Francais


  11. Nice one Bryce – this will be an interesting case study.

    (One I reckon our partners over the Indian Ocean will also keep a close eye on).

  12. BRYCE: This is a very interesting initiative.

    In case I missed it, can you briefly explain
    why the OZmob and ABs don’t have this problem?

    a) Because they can offer sabaticals to players
    like Carter to keep him from roving? Can they
    keep this up?

    b) Because they don’t have a money drainer like
    the Vodacom Cup? Add to this the Saru expenses
    for “development” etc.?

    c) Is the weak Rand exchange a possible reason?

  13. Surely the European clubs must reach a saturation point with regards to foreign players? If not, I can just imagine how poor the French national team will be in a few years if they cannot develop their players through their club structures due to foreign players occupying the places.

    The next thing would be to target players then before they play international rugby in their country of birth making them ellegible for national selection in France as well. But still, what will happen to the game at junior level in France?

  14. Are you also going to keep track of the Rand/Euro exchange rates for us also?

    It probably has a much larger effect on domestic player movement than Bok selection policy.

  15. With 5 Boks in Toulon it obviously
    does not apply to the Frogs.
    And I think the Frogs don’t have the
    guts to take on the big club bosses –
    with the detriment to Frog international
    Do they still care about their national side?

  16. @Boertjie:

    What’s your basis for saying it will harm their national team?

    Any evidence or examples?

    It may just be the other way around, with French players getting better as a result of playing with/against high quality players.

    Even if they have 10 foreign players in all of their 14 clubs, it would still leave over 200 local players, playing top level rugby and sharing fields with (learning from) the best international players.

    My logic says, that should actually improve their national squad.

  17. @Boertjie:

    Look at the IRB rankings since 2003 and tell us if you detect any trend in favour of England relative to France. I don’t see any.

    Whatever their reason is, it has not made any difference for their national team.

  18. @Timeo:

    Money talks mate… but cost of living in RSA is also a good 30-50% cheaper that say Australia for one…

    And so we have the first round of lunacy this weekend when there was supposed to be a ‘bye’… 5 Boks will be flying to FRance to play their first games… and then back to Australia the following week to play in TRC…

  19. @bryce_in_oz: if Meyer thinks this is an ideal situation for the Boks just before they go play their two most important matches of the season away from home then he needs to rethink his goals.

  20. @Timeo: then I suggest he starts building a squad with younger players, we cannot rely on players if their clubs can call tehm back in the niddle of a rugby championship.

  21. @biltongbek:

    Jurie Roux says it will never happen again.
    There was some kind of loophole, maybe because
    some of the players involved only saw the $$$$$
    and did not read the fine print in their contracts.

  22. @Timeo: too late now, he should have given them opportunities against Argentina.

    He is now in for a penny, in for a pound.

  23. @biltongbek:

    And such lost the game last Saturday?
    What’s the point then to prepare a team to beat Aus and NZ, whilst losing to Argentina. Not that 2 games against the Pumas would have been enough preparation anyway.

    Stop fretting about the future. In sport, the future is exactly like the present, including a new future perfectly matching the present’s future, including the griping despondent and emotional fans.

    Putting it differently:
    In the future, the youngsters of the present will be experienced veteran stars with lucrative offers from France that SA rugby won’t match. The Bok coach of that future, will have to make the same trade-off between preparation and experience that he has to make today. Today and in future, his best option is to select the team, that in his judgement, stands the best chance of winning the next match.

  24. @biltongbek:

    Excluding players for national selection based on the geography of their club is discriminatory, not to underline yet again it is stupid. To make such decisions arbitrarily in a professional era is ridiculous.

    The argument that it would undermine the development of local talent is similarly devoid of any attachment to reality.

    Football as the prime example again.

    Despite the fact that the top players of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Nigeria play in Europe those nations have never stopped producing super talented players and have also continued to be internationally competitive.

    Similarly despite top clubs like Barcelona, Madrid, Bayern, Manchester, Milan and a host of others being effectively foreign legion clubs Spain, Italy, Germany and England continue to be powerhouses of European football.

    Thus the arguments are underlined as beyond a doubt wrong.

  25. @Timeo:


    All “blooding ‘talented’ youngsters” means is that it raises the international visibility of young players to European and Japanese scouts. And the player must decide whether R50 000 per month or E10 000 per month suits his pocket best…

    To exclude good players based on where they play has so much stupid computed into it, only an ANC politician could have come up with such insanity…

  26. @DavidS: tell me David, do you think it is an ideal situation when 6 members f your team is off to France and can only join the camp on Tuesdays for their first training session ahead of the two most important away matches of the season?

    That sounds like a bit of stupid to me.

  27. @biltongbek:

    This was agreed to by the SA coach and admin – why do I say that?? Because the regulation is CLEAR so the club can’t do anything if HM told his players to stay in SA this week!
    HM has 8 weeks with the players for the TRC.

    No NEED to send them to France to play if he did not “want” to.

    Ideal? Of course not but if he wanted Ideal all he needs to do is say “NO”.

  28. Maybe it is one hand washes the other hand here, when HM calls on clubs for games which do not fall in international widow or releasing of players before the allocated time maybe?

    Just thinking out loudly

  29. @biltongbek:

    Nothing good can come of 5 of your 22 flying 12 hrs to the Northern Hemisphere, missing team sessions over a weekend where there is a bye, playing games for their respective clubs under different game plans and then flying half way around the world again to meet the team before a far more important test match than the previous week…

  30. @bryce_in_oz: I fully agree Bryce, but then it seems I am one of the few.

    It simply amazes me that some don’t see the potential negatives in this arrangement, but I suppose we will by the end of the tournament know who was right and who not.

    I can tell you one thing though, SARU is busy creating more and more obstacles for us to ever become number one in the world.

    But then, in South Africa these days complacency and mediocrity is the watchword.

  31. @biltongbek:

    The end of the tournament is too early to be able to see the many knock-on effects these selection policies will have if any… hence the thread…

    I’ll continue to update players leaving, if it continues at this pace we’ll be able to compare that with any decrease in Super rugby performance (and CC quality)… and come 2015 we should be able whether sponsor’s and the likes of the JW’s (and those supposedly in the know) fears start to come to fruition (for the lack of a better word)…

    One thing is for damn sure… the AB’s would not be allowing Ben Franks, Dan Carter, Brodie Retalick, Julian Savea and Aaron Smith to go play a club game on the other side of the world the weekend before meeting Australia in a test match the next…

  32. Guys, I gathered that Saru had no say and was
    quite perturbed.
    Apparently the players individually signed
    a contract making them available for their
    clubs in the off week.

    It’s obviously disrupting with players joining
    in late – that is if there are no injuries.
    But on de udder hand: HM had everybody availabe
    for Mendoza – and look at the result :roll:

    BTW I’d still like to know why the OZmob and
    Kiwis don’t have the problem of players
    streaming overseas.

  33. @Boertjie:

    Boertjie you mean other than Aus/NZ players not being permitted to if they want to represent their country in test rugby?

  34. @Boertjie:

    But that contract is illegal when you look at the IRB regulation – so the management seem to bow to the players wishes and ignoring what is good for the team…

    If Saru wanted to they could go to the IRB and the clubs who made these contracts will be penalized.

  35. It must be said that none of the above Boks are longer contracted to the Boks though… and anyone going OS is getting snubbed (but that’s rightly so)…

  36. @bryce_in_oz:

    No, I’d like to know why there is no huge
    outflow from Oz and Kiwis to Japan and France.
    Surely the is lots of potential contracts?
    Could the weak rand be a reason?
    IOW – what are they doing right and Saru wrong?

  37. @Boertjie:

    Just this year Kiwi players moving abroad:

    Hosea Gear
    Richard Kahui
    Lelia Masaga
    Tamati Ellison
    Rene Ranger (I think he is on his way)

    Then consider other guys already gone like

    Carl Hayman (considered best tighthead in the world by some)
    Sonny Bill
    Jerome Kaino
    Anthony Boric
    Adam Thomson
    Isaia Toeava

    These are just some that pop into my head, I am sure there are more.

  38. @Boertjie:

    Hey mate… Morne is right there are heaps of Aus/NZ players plying their trade overseas…

    I did a quick count from other sites on Japies oversea’s and I got to around 150 in mostly top leagues… I’ll try an find it but I saw an article last year saying there were almost 300 Kiwi’s in leagues around the world (lowly one’s amongst them)…

    Guys like Ione and Mitchell are some that have recently left and there are many playing all over the world as well…

    So it’s not just a South African thing…

    Whilst the weak Rand definitely makes a difference… I think the fact that RSA also earn far less in revenues than Aus (the highest) and NZ… and probably have to stretch over far more resources the VC being just one…

    It must be said thst the cost of living is far less in RSA than say Aus though… for example houses are 50% cheaper in equivalent RSA/Aus areas (that I compared) and food for one the same… but if you’re earning Pounds or Euro’s or Yen or Aus$ in the numbers some are (and are paying minimal living expenses)… there’s the clear draw-card for South Africans (and others)… and the flip-side being the standard of living (ie safety etc) far better outside of RSA…

    But the issue now is test players leaving without affecting their test careers… and NZ/Aus still fervently stopping that…

    Found this piece that I was mentioning on NZ player migration by Tony Johnson… good read…


  39. Was always a big GVDH fan… really didn’t get enough game time nor a settled possie… 15 is the youngster’s forte IMO…

  40. There goes Ruan Smit… Bulls better start recruiting… they’re looking extremely weak in some positions…

  41. I’ll say it again… the Bulls current fall from grace in the CC is 100% down to players leaving to play OS…

    It (the amount leaving) is 100% diluting the talent and quality of domestic competitions…

  42. That list just grows longer and longer… sustainable?

    Super 15 2014 will tell the tale I suppose…

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