RYAN VREDE, in Dublin, writes Heyneke Meyer is deeply concerned about the rate South Africa is losing top young talent to Ireland.
England have benefitted significantly from the services of South Africans in recent years. And it now appears the Ireland Rugby Football Union has embarked on a deliberate and calculated strategy of identifying and recruiting emerging players with a view to strengthening their pool of players from which the national team is selected from.
This season Munster recruited former Baby Boks captain CJ Stander (20), Leinster added highly-rated second-row Quinn Roux (20) and Connacht signed centre Danie Poolman (21), who scored a try on his starting debut last weekend. Contacts in the Irish media suggest more raids are planned in the Irish summer.
Having served a three-year residency, former Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss is expected to make his debut for Ireland against the Springboks on Saturday. He is likely to be the first but not the last South African to line up for Ireland against his countrymen.
‘We are obviously concerned,’ Meyer said when asked about the situation. ‘You want the best players in South Africa. I don’t think suddenly we can have a lot of guys leaving without affecting the depth that we had.
‘There’s a perception that we had all this depth. But look at the amount of youngsters we have had to use this year. I just went through the players playing overseas and you would get an unbelievably strong Springbok side just from the players overseas. In every single position there is a great player who is playing overseas.’
Meyer has always spoken highly of Richardt Strauss, cousin of Springbok hooker Adriaan, and indeed lamented his decision to leave in 2009. He said he understood Strauss’s decision and would never criticise a player for wanting to play at the very highest level.
‘I’m really happy for him. I’ve always thought he was a great player,’ he said of Strauss. ‘He moved on before I was there. I’m very happy for Strauss and I know he won’t do us any favours.
‘He can understand Afrikaans and he’ll understand all of our line-out calls, but he’s a great individual. I hope he gets the opportunity to play for Ireland. I would like all the players to play with South Africa but that’s the modern game. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.’
Turning his attention to the Test at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, Meyer rejected the suggestion that Ireland’s injury crisis will make them soft targets.
‘They are a quality and very experienced side. I’ve also got a lot of respect for their coaching staff, having worked with Gert Smal and Les Kiss,’ he said.
‘If you look at that series against the All Blacks in June, they could have won the second Test. The All Blacks are the type of team that if they score two quick tries you have to chase the game, which is what happened to us in Soweto. I don’t consider that result when thinking about our meeting with them, they’ll probably be more dangerous.
‘They are fresh because it’s the start of their season and teams always lift themselves when they play against the Springboks. If your basics aren’t up to scratch, your goal-kicking isn’t there and you don’t take your chances we’ll lose.’