It may not be an earth-shattering number, but there will be 13 players, excluding Namibians and of course the Springboks, in the teams of the other 18 countries taking part in the World Cup Tournament that kicks off on Friday.
More than a mere handful of the Namibian players, of course, have South African ties, having been schooled in South Africa or playing provincial rugby for South African sides (and of course for the Welwitchias in the Currie Cup First Division and/or the Vodacom Cup or more recently the SuperSport Rugby Challenge).
Of the Namibian national team, the most recognisable names from a South African ruby perspective are probably those of the former Pumas hooker who later captained the Cheetahs/Free State Cheetahs, Torsten van Jaarsveld (now playing for Bayonne in France), the Namibian World Cup captain Johan Deysel and Rohan Kitshoff, who played for Griquas, the Stormers and Western Province.
There are six players with South African ties playing for teams in Pool A.
- Tough flanker CJ Stander, former captain of the SA Schools side and also the Junior Springbok team, played for the Blue Bulls and has captained Munster. He has also been touted as a future Irish captain. Stander has been used as a number six flank in his most recent match when Ireland beat Wales last weekend but has been increasingly used at No 8 in recent matches.
- Jean Klein is a former Western Province and Stormers lock. His selection for the World Cup is regarded as rather controversial.
Klein only made his debut for Ireland last month in the same week that he qualified to play for them on residency.
- Regular Scotland props WP Nel and Allan Dell will be at the World Cup, but Josh Strauss, former captain of the Lions and the Golden Lions when they last won the Currie Cup 42-16 against the Sharks in 2011 did not make the cut. He was at the 2015 World Cup in England and his go-forward game could be severely missed in Japan.
- Lappies Labuschagne, who captained Japan on debut five weeks ago, also led the Blue Bulls after moving to Pretoria from Bloemfontein, captained Japan on debut against Fiji five weeks ago. He also played against the Springboks last weekend in the two teams’ warm-up. He is a flank
- Flank Wimpie van der Walt has played for Western Province, the Eastern Province, Southern Kings, Blue Bulls and Bulls and is currently playing for NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in Japan.
- Kotaro Matsushima was born in South Africa, educated in Japan but returned to play for the Sharks Vodacom Cup side and their U21s. The centre was invited to a SA Rugby U20 training camp for the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship and represented the Waratahs in Super Rugby two years later.
This is South Africa’s pool, and outside of the Springboks and the Namibians who have played rugby in South Africa there are two players with South African ties in the group.
- Cradock-born experienced Italy flanker Braam Steyn from Benetton played for the Junior Springboks but had only one season of senior rugby in South Africa.
- DTH van der Merwe, who will be playing in his fourth World Cup Tournament for Canada. Van der Merwe played for Boland U16s in the Grant Khomo Week, but his family emigrated to Canada the following year. The big wing has 58 test caps and is closing in on 50 test tries. He has played Premiership rugby for Saracens and the Newcastle Falcons and is currently playing for Glasgow Warriors after also representing the Welsh club side Scarlets.
The Eagles head coach, of course, is Gary Gold, who was the Springbok assistant coach to Peter de Villiers and was tournament in New Zealand in that capacity at the 2011. Gold was also Robert du Preez’s predecessor as Sharks head coach.
Famous Springbok centre Jaque Fourie, a World Cup winner in 2007, is an American Eagles assistant coach
Four of the 13 players with South African backgrounds are in the USA Eagles team.
- Twenty-year-old scrumhalf from the Free State Cheetahs, Ruben de Haas, grandson of Pieter de Haas who played for the Free State and Northern Transvaal and in the final and main trial game in 1967 before the Bok teams to play France was announced.
- Centre Marcel Brache, who was born in the USA, schooled in South Africa and played for the Stormers and Western Province and the Western Force in Australia before moving back to the United States where has been a regular at centre and sometimes wing.
Brache turns 34 on Thursday.
- Flank Hanco Germishuys who was born in Kimberley and schooled in South Africa until 2004 before moving to the US.
- Another scrumhalf, Shaun Davies, is a Westville High School old boy
The only other player in this pool with South African roots is versatile flank/lock Bernard le Roux.
- He was selected for the tournament despite a six-match suspension preventing him from playing in France’s warm-ups. The Racing92 forward has been with the club for more than ten seasons after leaving South Africa for France as a 19-year-old following playing a handful matches for Boland and Border.
There are no players with SA roots or rugby ties in any of the Pool D sides.