South AfricaThere was much annoyance among Springbok fans when it was announced not long before South Africa’s test match against Argentina in the Rugby Championship that the release of Bryan Habana was required by his new club Toulon.  This increased even more when it came to light that five of the players in the current Springbok Squad for the Rugby Championship were being ‘released’ to go back to their clubs in France while the rest of the players would return for a break to South Africa.

Having trawled through parts of the lengthy document that is the IRB’s Regulations Relating to the Game which is  filled with legal type jargon that our webmaster is better qualified to understand I came to the conclusion that the Springbok management didn’t really have  a choice in the matter.  Whether they should be selecting overseas based players or not is an entirely different matter and not within the remit of this article.

I may have misunderstood them but from what I could tell it seems that outside of the cash cow that is the World Cup the IRB seems to regard the players first and foremost as the assets of the clubs they are contracted to and then have made provisions, under certain conditions, for the players to be available to play for their countries.

During the ‘window’ for international matches out with the World Cup it would seem that the players generally only need to report for international duty five days prior to a test match. So for example if the Springboks play England on the end of year tour on a Saturday then the players only need to be in the Bok camp on the Monday. While it is not practical and would probably not happen in theory they could play for the Springboks on the Saturday and then be recalled by their clubs for the Sunday and then head back on the Monday if there is an international on the next Saturday.

There is no explicit provision for the players to remain for the entire duration of the Rugby Championship and so with all the above in mind with the one week break in the competition the clubs had first say on their players this week and it wasn’t really a case of them needing to request for the players to be released by the Springboks.

I may have missed the obligations on the clubs part in this regard but the international teams need to be able to provide adequate insurance for the players when they are on international duty and need to provide proof of this to the clubs prior to the players being released by their clubs. The players also need to go through medical tests after an international match before they go back to the clubs.

There are also all sorts of restrictions on the number of games in any particular international window that the clubs have to make their players available to play for their country.  In total it amounts to twelve games a year. During the end of year tours the clubs are only obliged to release their players for three games.

This just highlights the difficulty national bodies have when selecting players who play for clubs outside their union and how important it is that a good relationship is maintained between the countries and clubs regarding the use of players for international matches. One would hope that if a healthy relationship is maintained during the international windows that the clubs would be more likely to release players for any international matches or training camps etc that fall outside this window.


The ‘French Five’

Bryan HabanaWinger Bryan Habana recently signed with Toulon on a contract worth a rumoured 50 000 Euros a month. Toulon crushed Francois Steyn’s former club Racing Metro in their Top 14 encounter last week and have an away game against Grenoble on Saturday. Toulon were full of running and scored 5 tries against Racing Metro with their first try being scored by strong left wing David Smith after good interplay in the build up and a strong run by to dot down. Smith scored the last try of the match for Toulon as well. It is thus no surprise that Habana is not in the starting line but has been handed the number 20 jumper, so should get a run on from the bench at some point.




JuandreKruger_2Lock Juandré Kruger left the Vodacom Bulls in the lurch as he departed at a critical stage in the last Super rugby competition to join up with Racing Metro. They will be at home on Saturday to newcomers to the Top 14 Oyonnax who secured an upset win last weekend over last season’s beaten Heineken Cup finalists Clermont Auvergne. Kruger will play from the outset as he has been listed on the team sheet in the number four jersey, playing alongside fellow South African Francois v/d Merwe in the second row.




GurthroSteenkampLoosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp has been playing in France for longer than his four Springbok team mates released for this weekend and currently is with Toulouse.  Steenkamp has been selected to start the match for Toulouse’s game on Saturday away from home against Clermont Auvergne.




MorneSteyn_1Flyhalf Morné  Steyn  started his career at the Blue Bulls in the shadow of Derrick Hougaard but went on to make not only the Bulls flyhalf jersey his own but the Springbok’s one too. In the process Steyn went on to set many records which in my opinion will stand for a long time. Steyn joined Parisian club Stade Francaise at the end of the Super Rugby season. Morné Steyn is on the bench tonight for Stade who are hosting Biarritz.




JanoVermaak_2Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is another of the Bulls contingent who swopped Fortress Loftus for France  this year. Vermaak joined fellow Springbok Gurthrö Steenkamp at Toulouse. Saturday will see Vermaak make his competitive debut for Toulouse, against Clermont Auvergne and he has been named in their starting lineup.




The Springboks brain trust will be hoping for these five players to be on the field for as short a time as possible with the upcoming test next weekend against Australia in mind. Even more importantly they will be hoping that none of these players pick up any injuries playing in the notoriously tough Top 14.

24 Responses to A Busy Weekend Ahead for ‘Les Boks’

  • 1

    Stade Francais beat Biarritz 38/3. Morne Steyn came on in the 61st minute.

  • 2

    @ Bullscot:
    Thx, Morne seker al oppad terug? Uitputtende besigheid, die vliegery…

  • 3

    2 @ Pietman:
    Goie more Pietman, ja jong you would know all about the hassle of long distance flying, at least he should be flying business class which will make it a little less uncomfortable, not sure when Morne will fly out but they tend to play some their night games quite late in France so he is probably still waking up. He is probably just going to go straight to Australia and join the Boks there rather than first to South Africa, wonder if he will wait around until the other 4 guys (who are due to play today) are ready to fly and then all go out together. Remember the club only has to ensure they are back in Bok camp sometime on Monday Australian time. With all the time zone differences and long flights that means they will probably have to head out from France late tonight or verrry early tomorrow?

  • 4

    Our Boks should have flown straight to Australia from Argentina. Think we missed something here to get our players over there as soon as possible and rested for this game next week.

    The flying time would have been just over 15 hours from Arg to Oz. They would have been there this Monday and already over the jetlag. I read they had thought about doing that then changed their minds and flew back to SA. I feel that has made the travel longer and unnecessary. I know if we carried on from Arg the players would have been away from home for 3 weeks and it did give them a chance to be with their families. BUT really this is professional rugby era and we should look at it that way. They have now added so much extra travel to get to Brisbane. It was just over 11 hours to fly back to SA. Then some went back to Cape Town, Durbs and Bloem and that adds to the travel. Also how much rest can one get knowing that they have to travel back to Joburg to train after 3 days and then come Saturday they on ANOTHER 14 hour flight to Sydney after that another hour and a quarter to Brisbane? Count the flying hours. If you count the short flights to CT, Durbs and Bloem it is about 28 hours flying not all in one go, but the hassle of not being settled in one place for more than a week and flights between all the time tires one out EVEN more so. Honestly our Boks should have flown direct to Sydney from Arg. They could have had their 3 day rest there and have been totally jetlag free now. EXCEPT the overseas players that have done EVEN more travel… :mad:

    I think next year if we have the same fixture by playing Arg home and away first we might just fly direct to Oz after our game there. I know I would have done that if I was the coach. Makes sense. I too would not have allowed our overseas players to go back to France to play for their clubs either. Our team will be tired for this game and the next. We on the back foot. Oz had not travelled much anywhere yet nor has New Zealand. They sitting nice and comfortable resting for us and or weary overseas players.

  • 5

    4 @ Puma:
    Hi Puma, from what I wrote here it is my impression that according to the IRB regulations the Boks had no choice in the matter of keeping the players from going back to France.

  • 6

    @ Bullscot:
    Hello Skotse bul.
    I saw on the news Morne will join the team in Brisbane on Tuesday.

    What a business!
    Reminds me of Naas in 1988, flying from Loftus immediately after a game on Saturday to be in time for a match in Rovigo (a long way from Rome by car) at 3pm on Sunday.
    But I guess that what it takes to be a rugby millionaire hey?

    @ Puma: 28 hours of active flying, not counting waiting at airports, security procedures, checking in, etc…do these boys ever see a toilet on land?
    I don’t believe for one moment that any player competing in high intensity test rugby can deliver his best in the long run with this type of schedule,humanly impossible.

  • 7

    6 @ Pietman:
    Thanks for that Pietman didn’t know that and that then perhaps goes against the regulations, but I guess the law book does mention phrases like spirit of the law, good faith etc, but this is what is says in relation to when the players must be back with their countries : “In each case of release a Union shall be entitled to exercise its Right to Release for Matches so that Players are assembled at a location determined by the Union selecting the Player and available to train at least five clear days prior to the commencement of the International Match, International Tour or International Tournament. If an International Tournament is not played on consecutive weekends then the five clear day period shall commence five days before each Match in the Tournament.” – In my calculations if a game is on Saturday then the player should be back Monday – I guess the debate may surround the real meaning of ‘five days prior…’

  • 8

    6 @ Pietman:
    Ja but in those days the players were generally earning a whole lot less than now so am sure Naas would do all that with a smile as he thought of all the extra Lira he would be getting.
    Did the news say whether Steyn was flying from France via some far eastern stop off point or maybe via South Africa to have a quick hello to family there?

  • 9

    @ Bullscot:
    Don’t know, they didn’t say, my guess is direct to Sydney-Brisbane.

  • 10

    5 @ Bullscot:
    Well I don’t know really. So the IRB have control over players playing in a French club? Wonder why the other two players that play in England and Ireland are allowed to stay with the SA Boks here? As far as I know Flouw and Ruan never went back to play for their club? Or are their clubs not playing this weekend? I have no idea.

    From what I have read on the sites. The French clubs do not always release their players same as the Japanese clubs it seems.

    Anyhow we should only look to select local based players for the RC in the future. For the eoyt then probably okay to play the overseas players as they are there already and used to the conditions. Another gripe we only get the players 5 days before a test from their overseas players? Just not good enough they need to be with the Boks training for longer than that if we want to be successful.

  • 11

    @ Puma:
    meant = overseas clubs not players.

  • 12

    On the travel thing I posted above. Also the 11 hours we travelled from Arg and again when we travel to Oz the 14 hour flight there we will be travelling east which is tougher to overcome the jetlag. If we had travelled and done our 15 hours from Arg to Australia we would have travelled west which would have been easier and far less travelling. With all the hopping off of planes and a quick rest it seems we have been on the move for over a week since we came back.

    We missed a trick I feel by not going Via Arg and taking the shorter travel route. We could have based ourselves on the lovely Gold Coast and had our 3 rest days there. We would have arrived there on Monday and been well settled there now. Why did we not do that? We had the time and now we choose the longer travel route with a shorter time to get over the jetlag travelling east????? Crazy the mind just boggles, when we had a choice we take the long way round? Crazy the mind just boggles really. Then of course like I said the overseas based players have taken a even longer route.

    Last year we played in Perth against Oz. The time to travel there is only just over 9 hours. Also the time difference is not that great, they only 6 hours ahead of us. Going via Sydney is longer and they 9 hours ahead of us. 14 hours of flying and another flight to Brisbane which is around another hour and half or quarter. In and out of airports all the time. This year we should have gone via Arg no question about it. Our players would have been fresher for this game coming next Saturday. Time was on our side and we wasted it coming back to SA before heading there.

    Okay enough had my gripe….hehehe.

  • 13

    10 @ Puma:
    I guess in a round about way they do as all clubs (as far as I know) need to be registered somehow with their local union so in this case the Top 14 clubs with the French Rugby Union (or what they call it) and the French Rugby Union is affiliated with the IRB, only thing is all the laws in the world are only as good as how they are enforced. So there may be times when clubs just stubbornly refuse to let their players go but the national Unions let it slide as they hope at another time they can get access to their players from the clubs if it falls outside any IRB allocated time. I think in general as the national bodies are that much more directly linked to the IRB they will tend to tow the line more than the clubs. There are clauses that deal with clubs that won’t release their players in accordance with the laws for eg. they cannot play in the domestic competition at the same time as they were meant to be on national duty, BUT ultimately you can’t force players to play for their country so its a tricky balancing act and all this shows what a tough job national management teams have. Easy way out don’t pick any overseas based players, but then what do you do when there are so many of them and you think any of them are clearly better than whats at home – you don’t knowingly pick a weaker team to lose when your job is on the line – I guess its a tricky balancing act. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.
    The UK and Ireland based players could probably also be at their clubs according the laws BUT their competitive season only starts next weekend so I guess this is why Pienaar, Kirchener, Louw stayed with the Boks – probably a case where the Bok management team and the clubs worked things out but I can’t really say exactly how things panned out.

  • 14

    Grenoble caused an upset and beat Toulon 28/26; Toulon scored a try well after 80 minutes were up but Jonny Wilkinson failed to nail the conversion that would at least have got Toulon the draw.

  • 15

    Bryan Habanna came on some time in the 2nd half, thinkmit was at least after the 65th minute, didn’t have too much to do, saw him carry the ball up twice and he was closely watched so had a few defenders on him.

  • 16

    Here is a piece I copied from The Roar.

    See Spiro thinks our Boks are Supermen at home and Palookas playing away from home..hehe. Did have a chuckle when I read it.

    Now really hope we can moer em in Brisbane.

    Come on Bokke show em that we are no Palookas…LOL. Hope we bliksem them now. Damn cheek to call our Boks Palookas.


    SPIRO: The Wallabies can – and must – beat the Springboks.

    The Springboks come to Brisbane with a record of eight straight wins. Against the Pumas in Johannesburg, they were most impressive. But a week later at Mendoza, a fortress of Argentinian rugby, they were extremely lucky to win.

    The turnaround is significant. The Achilles’ heel of the Springboks is away Tests. Admittedly, they won the RWC 2007 in France and they have had wins in Australia and New Zealand since then.

    But the fact is that (in general) the Springboks play like Supermen at home and like Palookas out of South Africa.

    And fortunately for the Wallabies, they play the Springboks at Brisbane. If there is a fortress in Australian rugby, it is Brisbane.

    The Wallabies, which should have the Reds playmakers Genia and Quade Cooper running the team, invariably play well here (even when they lose as they did to the Lions).

    The support for the Wallabies, too, is far more fanatical in Brisbane than it is in Sydney.

    We know what the Springboks are going to bring to the Test. They will drive from the lineouts, smash through the middle of the field with their big forwards, they will be aggressive at the breakdown, they will be ruthless with intercepts, Morne Steyn will kick the plastic stickers off the ball and kick virtually all his shots at goal.

    The Wallabies have to do several things to counter all this. First, don’t give Steyn the chance to kick the Springboks to victory. This means more discipline than the Wallabies have shown this season.

    Against the All Blacks at Wellington, the Wallabies conceded 16 penalties, four of them from Stephen Moore.

    I admire Moore as a player. He is tough and competitive. But he is, like James O’Connor, one of those players who feels incumbent to save every difficult situation directly.

    O’Connor comes in off his wing all the time. Moore continually disrupts rucks and mauls, often illegally.

    When he was penalised at Wellington for an obvious maul penalty he complained to Jaco Peyper, the South African referee, that he couldn’t extract himself from his off-side position.

    “You shouldn’t have put yourself in the position in the first place,” Peyper told him. This was correct.

    It is obvious that for most rucks and mauls, Moore comes in illegally. Coach Ewen McKenzie needs to get this out of Moore’s game, or hook him the first time he indulges in this nonsense in the Test.

    You would hope, too, that someone like Kane Douglas locks the scrum, as he is the biggest Wallaby going around. Scott Sio should be a starter in the front row.

    And Dave Dennis be considered for number eight, to add some bulk to the pack. Scott Fardy may have to go at number six to be replaced by Ben Mowen.

    I would imagine that Genia and Cooper will be re-united. Genia has to be instructed to run a lot more. The big change in the All Blacks’ game this year has been the running of Aaron Smith.

    The matter of where Israel Folau plays has been given a lot of discussion. I still believe his best position, right now while he is learning the intricacies of rugby is on the wing.

    I’d like to see Nic Cummins brought into the side for his dash and enthusiasm and batter-down-a-brick-wall mentality.

    That means James O’Connor or Ashley-Cooper at fullback or outside centre. Personally, I’d like to see O’Connor in the centres to give some real dash to the attack.

    The key to the Wallabies ‘moving forward’ is whether they have learnt from their experiences against the Lions and the All Blacks. As readers of The Roar will know I was extremely critical of McKenzie’s whining about the referee after the Wellington Test.

    But if this was a sort of smokescreen to hide what he’d identified as the real problems of the Wallabies, and then has taken selection and training decisions to put these matters right, then we should all be happy.

    The point in all of this is that the Wallabies have played the two best teams in the world this year. At times they’ve been more than competitive.

    The Springboks, on the other hand, have played Scotland and the Pumas, two teams that are not in the top rank.

    The Wallabies know what is needed now to beat really strong sides. It has been the hardest of lessons. But if these lessons have been learnt they should carry this knowledge into the Test at Brisbane with strong hopes.

    The motto of my old school was: ‘Keep The Faith!’

    In life and in rugby, it a terrific principle. No matter how bleak the outlook is we have to stick to our ideals and goals if we want to be successful. Being staunch needs to be the attitude of the Wallabies on Saturday

  • 17

    @ Puma – This was quite a interesting read. what this guy forgets to mention is that when SA plays overseas, whether in Argentina, AUS or NZ it is usually paired with a 15 hour+ flight. So if we play on a Saturday and Fly on the Sunday which is usually not the case. we land there early on the Monday. So no training on Monday. Tuesday is usually still paired with jet lag and niggles from Saturday, So only on Wednesday the coaches have a clear indication of the team for the weekend. So if all goes well then we train together for 2 days. This is why we usually knock teams in SA because of travel time. But this time it is different as we have had 2 weeks to prepare in AUS. So I believe we are going to kill the Aussies. And seeing as this oke wants to bring up motos, here are two we can take from movies and other sports. No 1 = It does not matter if you win by a inch or a mile, winning is winning(Fast and furious 1). No 2 = a Good team always gets a positive result(Alex Furgeson, former MANU coach)

  • 18

    17 @ Timothy Bornman:
    Hello Timothy, yes we did have almost 2 weeks we could have been preparing in Australia but with the Boks first going back to South Africa means this hasnt happened. Boks arriving on Sunday evening Aus time means probably a fairly relaxed Monday with first proper training on Tuesday so its similar to the scenario you painted, addedcto that you have the 5 from France getting to Australia after the others, so all in all not ideal preparation.

  • 19

    Vermaak and Steenkamps Toulouse lost to Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, both played fairly well with Vermaak passing well and making good tackles but he seemed to be used more as a link man with little kicking from him and not much running at the defence. Vermaak played most of the game only being replaced near the end, Steenkamp was replaced around 68 minute mark, 10 minutes prior to that he was part of the Toulouse scrum that disintergrated after being shoved back strongly by Clermont.

  • 20

    @Bullscot – I recon these overseas based players situation is going to byte us in the arse sooner rather than later. I would then have rather given these players leave for the next match and get over to AUS as soon as possible. And the fact that for the first time in SA we have depth in all positions and especially in a key positions like example 10. We could have afforded to give Steyn leave for the Ausie game and have him fresh for the NZ game. Jano does not matter as Pienaar will start ahead of him in any case. In the case of Guthro I recon we have enough props that should be able to cover that position fully. In the case of Jeandre, well you start with Flip en Eben and play Jeandre from the bench if neccessary. And with Habana it is also quite easy, shift JJ to wing and start with Jean and Jan at center. This way all over seas based players get a rest and we don’t overplay key players. But heck, I am not the bok coach so what do we actually know. hahaha.

  • 21

    My team for the ausie game. Taking into consideration the players that played overseas this past weekend. All 5 overseas based players are on the bench so if needed they can come on.
    15 Willie le Roux,
    14 Bjorn Basson,
    13 Jan Serfontein,
    12 Jean de Villiers (Captain),
    11 JJ Engelbrecht,
    10 Pat Lambie,
    9 Ruan Pienaar, (the only reason that I left Pienaar at 9 is because he WILL start if we like it or not)
    8 Duane Vermeulen,
    7 Willem Alberts,
    6 Francois Louw,
    5 Eben Etzebeth
    4 Flip van der Merwe,
    3 Jannie du Plessis,
    2 Adriaan Strauss,
    1 Tendai Mtawarira.
    Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Bryan Habana

  • 22

    20 @ Timothy Bornman:
    Yes Timothy its a difficult one and I think what made it harder for Mr Meyer was the overseas departure of so many of his preferred players at one time so close to the international season. All the player movements must make it incredibly hard for modern day managers to plan ahead with any success.
    I like your idea of having those players on the bench, only to be brought on if absolutely necessary – that way they get some rest but also provide ‘insurance’ in case the guys in the starting line up struggle, it will also give the coaches an idea of the attitude of these guys and test their desire to play for the Boks ie. how do they react to going from certain choices to bench players…

  • 23

    21 @ Timothy Bornman:
    Interesting choices there will be good to compare the team eventually announced with yours. One change I would suggest is Bismarck and Adrian Strauss swopping as Strauss has had a big workload this season with Cheetahs and there is not much between them anyway, in fact I think if both are on top form I would rate Bismarck that bit better. Boks may need to come out strong and try and build as big a lead as possible in first 60 minutes, in case we run out of steam in the last 20 and maybe fall off in defence and concede late tries to the dangerous Aussie backs.

  • 24

    23 @ Bullscot:
    Have to agree, I also think that Bismarck will be a bit better. The big thing here if you have to choose between these two. Bismarck is a very solid player not big on the attack, but a good fetcher and I think a better scrummer as well. But having said that Adriaan is a lot more attacking. This is the reason for starting him. Because he will attack the ausies head on all the time. Also then replacing him with Bismarck in the 50th of 60th minute. Then we have a solid fresh fetcher on the field. But I also have to agree that Adriaan needs some rest.


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