Recalled tighthead CJ van der Linde is considering a move back to South Africa in order to extend his involvement with the Springboks.
Van der Linde moved to Irish club Leinster after the 2008 Tri-Nations and has not been picked for the Boks since. It seemed Peter de Villiers was going against the foreign-player policy when he phoned Van der Linde last Saturday. De Villiers asked Van der Linde to fill in for the injured Jannie du Plessis, and now there’s a chance the big man could be on his way back to South Africa.
‘It was a great surprise to receive that phone call, especially given the Boks’ stance on overseas-based players,’ Van der Linde told keo.co.za. ‘It’s a great honour, but now I’ve got to make sure I use this opportunity.’
Van der Linde is available for the duration of South Africa’s European tour, and will rejoin Leinster thereafter. Injury has kept his involvement with the European Cup champs to a minimum, and although he has learned much since signing a three-year deal last year, a South African return is on the cards.
‘I have two years left on my contract, but I have a clause that could allow me to leave the club in May. I’ll have to talk to Leinster about it. They have supported me through these injuries and they have been good to me, but they will understand when I say I’d like to play in South Africa again.
‘We’ll have to see what happens. I’ll start thinking about my future in the next few months. If I return, I’m not sure if I will be able to go back to the Cheetahs because they already have some good props down there.
‘Cape Town does sound nice though,’ he chirped diplomatically when probed on a possible move to the Stormers and Western Province.
Despite a lack of game time, Van der Linde believes his northern sojourn has improved him as player. All these tricks will certainly come in handy when he comes off the bench to play France in Toulouse.
‘There are quite a few things I’ve added to my armoury. The rugby is different up here because the weather is hardly ever very good. There are more rucks and scrums, so you get more opportunities to scrum than you would in the northern hemisphere.
‘It’s a different kind of scrumming to back home. I was surprised that the guys did so badly against Leicester, it was a night where everything went wrong. I think it was more a mental lapse than anything else.’
Van der Linde lauded the progress of Bok captain John Smit, who converted to tighthead at the same time Van der Linde departed for Ireland in 2008. He does feel, however, that France will be difficult to beat in this area.
‘They play a very physical game and certainly fancy themselves at scrum time. You can see how much emphasis is placed on it at provincial and club level, so we know we’re going to have to be at our best.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Toulouse