Jean defends Irish ‘exodus’

    2012-06-27 15:14

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town - The current trend of prominent South African rugby players switching to Irish clubs needs to be put in perspective, Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said on Wednesday.

    Gallery: Stormers prepare for Lions

    De Villiers was speaking at a Newlands media briefing where the Stormers announced their side - including two first-time starters at flank in Don Armand and Tyrone Holmes - to play the Lions in a Super Rugby match at the venue on Saturday.

    Apart from confirming that budding lock Quinn Roux, who is on the bench for the Lions encounter, was indeed Leinster-bound for a year but potentially returning, coach Allister Coetzee also revealed that reasonably peripheral wing Danie Poolman had been released to Connacht - on a longer-term deal possibly with a view to qualifying as an Irish international.

    Just a few days ago, up-and-coming Bulls loose forward CJ Stander also signalled his intentions to ply his trade on the Emerald Isle.

    De Villiers can speak with good experience of the Irish landscape because he spent some time with Munster about three years back.

    “I really enjoyed my experience over there and I would encourage every single guy to do that (play in Europe) at some stage of his career,” he said.

    “I think he would be stupid not to. You can base yourself in a foreign country, earn good money, travel the world and then still come back to South Africa.

    “A lot of kids when they do a gap year, go overseas and have a bit of a ‘jol’ ... as a rugby player you can still do your job and live there at the same time. It’s a great experience but you have to do it for the right reasons.”

    Referring to Stander’s decision to abandon Loftus, De Villiers said: “A guy like CJ ... it’s also sometimes a business decision and (can depend) on how you’re being looked after at a particular union.

    “I don’t know his situation, but at the end of the day you can’t keep absolutely everyone. That’s the problem. At some stage you have to let go of a talented player.”

    Coetzee said Roux saw his Irish adventure as a chance to “improve as a young lock”.

    Whilst Roux had developed “brilliantly well” at the Stormers, he was behind four other second-rowers in the current pecking order.

    “I’m very OK with this because he’s coming back to us. He’s only signed a year’s contract. By end of May (2013) we’ll probably have a Quinn Roux who’s played a lot of rugby, played with experienced locks like All Black Brad Thorn ... it’s actually good for his development.

    “It’s not as though Quinn is parting ways with the Stormers. First option is to come back. You go and ask him - there’s no other province he’d prefer to return to.”

    Coetzee added: “This place will always produce talented young players and you simply can’t retain them all. Sometimes you have young players on your books and you simply don’t know what to do with all of them.

    “Sometimes you have to release players. Conrad Hoffman, Johann Sadie ... it doesn’t (necessarily) come back to bite you.”

    Another South African, the former Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss, 26, is currently representing Leinster and rumoured to be seeking a place in the Irish national team - he has already trained among their broader squad.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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