Oh, if only…
This is not a new or novel discussion, but after the past weekend a South African rugby lover could be forgiven if he sighed this phrase that usually depicts a futile wish in exasperation.
And this is exactly what it is, a futile wish, when one looks at the lost talent that represented the 20 teams in last weekend’s final rounds of the European Cup and European Challenge competitions.
A total of 15,9 percent of the 20 combined squads' 460 players first played their rugby in South Africa before moving abroad.
Just imagine if money had not lured the more than 70 players identified by the SA Rugby Magazine website from our shores what impact this could have had on South Africa’s international competitions, like the Super Rugby and the Pro14, and the Currie Cup competition.
(One also has to be realistic. A minority few also left because of the transformation policy that they surmised would preclude them from playing Super or international rugby.)
♦ More than half the South African players who have been identified by SA Rugby Magazine are internationals. No less than 24 Springboks were on the field for their clubs in the European competitions, and 13 players who were in action in the sixth round of the two European competitions and who left South Africa for the European rugby experience and big pay packets, have gone on to qualify for and represent Six Nations teams.
On Saturday alone Quin Roux, Paul Willemse, Alan Dell, WP Nel, Bernhard le Roux, Antonie Claassen, CJ Stander, Brad Barritt, Scott Spedding, Rory Kockott, Josh Strauss, Braam Steyn and Don Armand have represented one of the Six Nations test teams. ( And DTH van der Merwe plays his international rugby for Canada.)
♦ And there are more, many, many more players, including Springboks and Saffas who now have overseas teams’ international caps, from those clubs in the English Premiership, France’s Top14, and the Pro14 where the Irish, Scottish and Welsh teams compete that did not qualify for the European competition.
There are also many South African players who are injured.
Conceivably, there are about 90 players, just in the first team squads of European clubs, which could have strengthened South African rugby considerably.