While the five overseas-based players in a Springbok squad of 43 would suggest that they are the cream of the crop, it doesn’t mean they’ll get a free pass into the team.
In fact, national coach Rassie Erasmus has challenged them to show their willingness to fight for a spot.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, fullback Willie le Roux and flanker Duane Vermeulen are already in camp, while the duo of hooker Bismarck du Plessis and centre Frans Steyn will arrive next week after finishing their commitments with French club Montpellier.
“There’s no certainty that those five players will even be selected for the starting line-up,” said Erasmus.
“They must show how desperate they are and how fit they are to play for this team. That’s the most important thing.”
The overseas brigade
Willie le Roux (Fullback, London Wasps. 41 Tests, 10 tries)
Frans Steyn (Utility back, Montpellier. 56 Tests, 10 tries, 132 points)
Faf de Klerk (Scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, 11 Tests)
Duane Vermeulen (Flanker, Formerly Toulon, 39 Tests, 2 tries)
Bismarck du Plessis (Hooker, Montpellier, 79 Tests, 11 tries)
Erasmus has consistently maintained that he believes the best players in the country still generally play locally and that the player exodus to Europe is possibly over-exaggerated.
The composition of the current Bok group certainly would seem to suggest that his point is being proven.
“I guess it’s fair to say that our best players are still playing in South Africa,” said Erasmus.
“We didn’t go and look at list of names and say ‘Yes, we can pick that guy and yes, we can pick that guy’. We merely looked at key positions where we perhaps needed experience and couldn’t find it here.”
One obvious example is halfback, where De Klerk has been recalled after an outstanding season for English club Sale and a year in the international wilderness.
“We identified scrumhalf as one of those positions but in general, I really think South African rugby is healthy,” said Erasmus.