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Could This European Based Springbok XV Beat South Africa?

South Africa v Samoa - Group B: Rugby World Cup 2015

South Africa are losing an increasing number of players to European clubs.

Over the past few of seasons, the number of southern hemisphere players signing for European clubs has accelerated massively.

Bumper TV deals have allowed clubs from the Top 14 and Premiership pilfer some the game’s biggest names by offering salaries that are simply too good to turn down.

While Australia and New Zealand have suffered as a result of the player drain, South African are being devastated in it’s wake.

Although the the weak South African Rand has made it easier for European sides to raid the Springboks time and again, the introduction of racial quotas could yet have an impact, as many white players on the fringes of the national team could find their path to international selection blocked.

Consequently, politics and economics could yet become the most important factors in determining how strong the Springboks will be in the not too distant future.


[tie_slide]1. Heinke van der Merwe (Stade Francais)

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Heinke van der Merwe looks on during the South Africa Springboks captain's run at Northgate Playing Field on July 17, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

After five years playing Super Rugby with the Lions, Heinke van der Merwe first joined Leinster in 2010, before moving onto Stade Francais in 2013.

Although he might have only five caps to his name, the loosehead has never been too far down the pecking order, making his last international appearance against Australia in the Rugby Championship last year.


[tie_slide]2. Bismark du Plessis (Montpellier)

LYON, FRANCE - MAY 13: during the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final match between Harlequins and Montpellier at Stade de Lyon on May 13, 2016 in Lyon, France.

One of a remarkable 10 South Africans at Montpellier, Bismark du Plessis has recently been appointed captain of the Top 14 club.

Although the Springboks are still able to call on Adriaan Strauss, the 79 times capped du Plessis remains a powerful performer.


[tie_slide]3.  Jannie du Plessis (Montpellier)

Harlequins v Montpellier - European Rugby Challenge Cup Final
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Jannie du Plessis is another member of Montpellier’s South African contingent, and was once a key component of an intimidating Springbok front row, winning 70 caps.

However, in the summer of 2015, both du Plessis brothers left for France.


[tie_slide]4. Juandré Kruger (Racing 92)

South Africa v New Zealand: The Rugby Championship
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Juandré Kruger was capped on 17 occasions since making his debut in 2012. However he dealt his international aspirations a blow when he signed for Racing 92 the following year.

Indeed, Kruger has been left out of the Springbok squad since 2013.

Although the big second row has at times struggled to impose himself in Paris, he remains an important part of Racing’s squad.


[tie_slide]5. Flip van der Merwe (Clermont)

Argentina v South Africa
(Photo by Gabriel Rossi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

After making 37 appearances for the Springboks, Flip van der Merwe took the decision to join Clermont last summer.

Although he won many of his international caps from the bench, van der Merwe’s loss has had an impact on the depth available to South Africa, having last seen action during the 2015 Rugby Championship.


[tie_slide]6. Willem Alberts (Stade Francais)

Leicester Tigers v Stade Francais Paris - European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter Final
<> at Welford Road on April 10, 2016 in Leicester, England.

Known as the bone collector, Willem Alberts made a name for himself by smashing opponents with explosive tackles.

Although injury and form have limited Alberts to 38 caps, he was included in the Springboks 2015 World Cup squad before joining Stade Francais in the autumn.

Therefore while Alberts does represent a loss for South African rugby, given the fact that he is 32 years of age, his international career may have been coming to an end anyway.


[tie_slide]7. Marcell Coetzee (Ulster)

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Marcell Coetzee of the Springboks is tackled during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Patersons Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Although Marcell Coetzee has yet to officially join Ulster, his loss underlines the problems facing South Africa.

With an ability to play across the backrow, Coetzee is epitomises the role of the modern day flanker.

What’s more, given that he is only 25 years of age, Ulster will benefit from the tremendous power and athleticism of the 28 times capped Springbok over the next three years.


[tie_slide]8. Duane Vermeulen (Toulon)

Ireland v South Africa - International Match
(Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)

Duane Vermeulen’s importance to South Africa cannot be underestimated.

Not only is he one of the most powerful number eights in the game, but when Mourad Boudjellal threatened not to release him ahead of the Springbok’s test series against Ireland, there was a national out cry.

Indeed, despite the fact that he was playing overseas, he will remain one of Allister Coetzee’s prized assets.


[tie_slide]9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)

Ulster Rugby v Saracens - European Rugby Champions Cup

Although Ruan Pienaar may have 88 caps to his name, the emergence of Faf de Klerk must surely have brought an end to the scrum half’s international career.

Nevertheless, Pienaar remains a quality operator from the base of the scrum, and has become a cult hero in Ulster.

However with his contract to expire at the end of the 2016/17 season, Pienaar could yet make a return to South Africa, if not the Springboks.


[tie_slide]10. Morné Steyn (Stade Francias)

France v South Africa - International Match
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Morné Steyn was one of the most talented players of his generation.

The flyhalf became the fastest South African to score 100 international points, despite making three of his first eight Springbok appearances from the bench.

His rapid rise continued, subsequently becoming the fastest South African to score, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 points.

Therefore, like Vermeulen, Steyn has continued to be part of the Springbok squad, despite playing in the Top 14 with Stade Francais.


[tie_slide]11. Bryan Habana (Toulon)

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 07: (Re-transmission of #491690038 with alternative crop) Bryan Habana of South Africa goes over for their third try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and USA at Olympic Stadium on October 7, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Bryan Habana’s electric pace saw him become one the most celebrated wingers in world rugby.

Not only was he dangerous in attack, but Habana’s ability to read the game saw him score numerous intercept tries, making his a threat in defence also.

However, we may have seen the last of the 33 year old on the international scene, following his failed attempt to be included in the South African sevens squad ahead of the Olympics.


[tie_slide]12. Francois Steyn (Montpellier)

Harlequins v Montpellier - European Rugby Challenge Cup Final
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

After making his debut against Ireland in 2006 at 19 years of age, Francois Steyn was earmarked as a potential superstar. Steyn seemed to have everything, pace, vision and a massive kicking game.

One year later, the utility back replaced the injured Jean de Villiers, starting the 2007 World Cup final against England.

His star didn’t wane thereafter, and in 2009 Steyn earned his first move to France with Racing 92.

Although he returned to South Africa in 2012, he subsequently returned to the Top 14, joining Montpellier in the middle of the 2015/16 season.


[tie_slide]13. Johan Goosen (Racing 92)

Racing 92 v RC Toulon - European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter Final
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Although he is better known as a fly half or fullback, Racing deployed Johan Goosen in midfield to devastating effect on a number of occasions last season.

Like Steyn, Goosen made his debut at a young age and was thought to be one of the game’s stars of the future. However, the talented playmaker shocked South African rugby officials when he announced his decision to join Racing in 2014.

Despite struggling to establish himself early on, Goosen has become an important member of the Racing squad.


[tie_slide]14. JP Pietersen (Leicester Tigers)

South Africa v Samoa - Group B: Rugby World Cup 2015
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

After enjoying a nine year international career with the Springboks, JP Pietersen joined the Leicester Tigers on a three year deal this summer.

Although he is better known for his blinding pace, Pietersen demonstrated his defensive ability during South Africa’s 20-15 win over Wales in November 2008.


[tie_slide]15. Gio Aplon (Grenoble)

Harlequins v Grenoble - European Rugby Challenge Cup Semi Final
(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Blessed with incredible pace, Gio Aplon has opened up event the best defences in the Top 14 with Grenoble.

Despite facing tough competition for a place in the Springbok starting XV, Aplon earned 17 caps and was named man of the match after scoring two tries during South Africa’s win over France in 2010.

Although his international career maybe at and end, his ability to step around defenders makes him an asset for an team.



Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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