Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. Picture: REUTERS
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. Picture: REUTERS

Test matches between SA and New Zealand are often billed as a clash of cultures, but in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) Pool B opener their respective selection policies will also go on trial.

New Zealand have fastidiously held on to the belief that players who opt to ply their trade abroad should no longer be considered to play for the All Blacks. So when players cross the Tasman Sea they effectively draw a line in the sand with their backs facing the black jersey.

SA have grappled with the foreign player selection issue and have applied different rules.

Before Rassie Erasmus took over the Bok job, players who campaign abroad need 30 caps or more to be considered for Test selection.

Erasmus urged SA Rugby to waive that stipulation, which meant he would have access to a wider pool of Test experience and source players whose value is not linked to their number of caps but rather their devotion to the Bok cause.

“We lose a lot of experienced players in their prime” to overseas clubs, said Erasmus when asked about the value of overseas-based talent.

“We have wonderful talent in SA but they seem to lack big-match temperament and knowledge and experience in vital situations.

“We felt when we spoke to our decisionmakers to just get us back on track to scrap the 30-Test rule to get us from No 6 in the world and we were despondent hitting rock bottom losing to Japan and other teams.

“We needed [overseas] players in the team just to rebuild faith and supporters back and get some aura back into the Springbok team,” he said.

“The challenge was not to get guys who want to play for SA as a ego thing or the money in the game. We did an around-the-world trip to find out who has the burning desire to really play for the badge still.

“We made sure to select those guys because there are a lot of guys playing overseas just for the money. There are players who want to play for the badge still‚ and that is the big difference. The guys who are here are losing money at their clubs overseas.

“They have sacrificed financially by playing for the Springboks. That is the kind of guy we want in our set-up‚” said Erasmus.