The recently announced French team for the Test against Fiji in Marseille on Saturday contains no fewer than three South African expats – fullback Scott Spedding, flanker Bernard le Roux and reserve scrumhalf Rory Kockott.
Spedding has been included in the starting team after recently accepting French citizenship. The lanky Bayonne fullback spent three seasons with the Sharks in South Africa before heading to seemingly greener European pastures. The former South African age group representative replaces the injured Brice Dulin. Spedding represents his French club along with JC Janse van Rensburg, Gert Muller and Dewald Senekal, who all hail from the southern tip of Africa.
Flanker Bernard le Roux has been somewhat of a fixture in the French side over the past few seasons. He turned out for the Boland Cavaliers for two seasons before heading to France, where he turns out for Racing Metro along with fellow South Africans Brian Mujati, Francois van der Merwe, Juandre Kruger, Jacques Cronje and Johan Goosen.
Halfback Kockott, who has been caught in limbo between representing his homeland or his adopted country for a while, finally opted for France after receiving clarity on his position in the pecking order of South African scrumhalves. He qualified to represent France through residency. Kockott could get a first Test cap if called upon against Fiji on Saturday.
The snappy scrumhalf is well known to South African fans, as he spent a fair whack of time in domestic rugby with the Sharks and the Golden Lions. He currently represents Castres in the French Top 14. He is joined by a lone fellow South African at the club – flanker Jannie Bornman.
The occurrence of South Africans representing other countries is nothing original. In recent times alone we have seen the likes of Brad Barrit and Mouritz Botha represent England.
The Irish also seem to have a fondness for South Africans – hooker Richardt Strauss has already earned Test caps for the country, while No 8’s CJ Stander and Robbie Diack are on the verge of qualification.
This occurrence is not wholly harmful to South African rugby, however, as few of these players would have stood a chance to play Test rugby for the Springboks. The talent South Africa produces is so vast that it can’t be accommodated by a single country.