Japan stints to help keep Boks in SA?

    2017-02-21 17:30

    Cape Town - One of the major challenges facing SA Rugby as they plot the way forward is finding ways to keep their best players in South Africa. 

    It is a battle that is not being won presently, with the lure of the pound and euro making it increasingly difficult to persuade the country's brightest talents to base themselves at home. 

    It weakens the Super Rugby franchises and, more importantly, it complicates Springbok matters. 

    Having initially looked to back locally-based players in 2016, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee soon found himself calling on more and more players based in Europe. 

    Desperate times called for desperate measures. 

    As the country awaits an announcement from SA Rugby on what exactly the Bok coaching team will look like in 2017, one certainty is that player retention will be high up on the list of priorities. 

    Of course, Europe is not the only attractive option for South Africans. 

    Japan has become an increasingly big player, and every year there are South Africans who return from stints in the Top League just in time for Super Rugby. 

    It may seem like a hindrance having South Africans playing their rugby in Japan, but it could be a blessing in the long run. 

    The Japanese season does not impact on Super Rugby (which runs from February until the beginning of August), and it also breaks over November when the Boks would be on their northern hemisphere tour. 

    The natural worry is that players cannot be expected to play throughout the year, but if a stint in Japan and the financial reward that comes with that keeps a player in South Africa for Super Rugby and prevents them from going to Europe, then surely it should be viewed as a positive. 

    "It’s always a challenge having Japanese-based players, but that’s not something we can prevent going forward," Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said in Cape Town this week.

    "That's an agreement that the players have in place and I certainly think that when SA Rugby make those decisions on how to retain our players there might be more players drifting off to Japan over that season.

    "As rugby franchises we need to all get together and understand what the right time is for these players to come back, and how much break they get when they do come back. Because they can’t be playing rugby for 12 months of a year."

    So, could we have a situation where South African players are encouraged to go to Japan and then rest for the opening rounds of the Super Rugby season? 

    In 2016, the Stormers had a number of key players returning from Japan ahead of Super Rugby, including Damian de Allende, Schalk Burger and Eben Etzebeth. 

    It proved to be a problem, given that De Allende returned injured and Etzebeth was in need of rest. 

    This season, though, the Stormers have no players returning from Japan after both Etzebeth and De Allende opted for time out in Cape Town.

    "It’s nice to get an off-season and spend some time with the family and get away," Etzebeth said.

    "And also the mental break ... my last game was the beginning of November so I’m looking forward to playing a rugby game again."

    "It certainly helps in the sense that we’ve had our full group together since January," Fleck added.

    "Eben had that opportunity to go abroad and he chose to come back and have a mental break from the game. When you’ve got your big Springboks training with you from day one, it makes a huge difference in terms of your planning and strategies. For the first time in a long time, we’ve had that." 

    The Lions, meanwhile, have a number of players who are returning from Japan, including skipper Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Franco Mostert and Jaco Kriel.

    "It's tough to manage that. Those are things that the Lions might encounter for the first time now," Fleck said.

    "Fortunately we've been through that with various players over the years and we know how to deal with it going forward and I'm sure Ackies (Lions coach Johan Ackerman) and Rudolf Straeuli (CEO) will know exactly how to handle it.

    "They're experienced ... they've got a quality squad and I'm sure they'll be able to manage their players correctly. It is a challenge, but I don't think they're going to let that get in their way."

    What To Read Next

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    Live Video Streaming
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk


    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, AMI Stadium 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15


    05 August 2017
    29 July 2017
    22 July 2017
    21 July 2017
    15 July 2017
    14 July 2017
    08 July 2017
    07 July 2017
    01 July 2017
    30 June 2017
    09 June 2017
    03 June 2017
    02 June 2017
    28 May 2017
    27 May 2017
    26 May 2017
    21 May 2017
    20 May 2017
    19 May 2017
    13 May 2017
    12 May 2017
    06 May 2017
    05 May 2017
    30 April 2017
    29 April 2017
    28 April 2017
    22 April 2017
    21 April 2017
    15 April 2017
    14 April 2017
    09 April 2017
    08 April 2017
    07 April 2017
    02 April 2017
    01 April 2017
    31 March 2017
    25 March 2017
    24 March 2017
    18 March 2017
    17 March 2017
    11 March 2017
    10 March 2017
    04 March 2017
    03 March 2017
    02 March 2017
    25 February 2017
    24 February 2017
    23 February 2017
    06 August 2016
    30 July 2016
    23 July 2016
    22 July 2016
    16 July 2016
    15 July 2016
    09 July 2016
    08 July 2016
    02 July 2016
    01 July 2016
    29 May 2016
    28 May 2016
    27 May 2016
    21 May 2016
    20 May 2016
    14 May 2016
    13 May 2016
    07 May 2016
    06 May 2016
    30 April 2016
    29 April 2016
    24 April 2016
    23 April 2016
    22 April 2016
    16 April 2016
    15 April 2016
    09 April 2016
    08 April 2016
    03 April 2016
    02 April 2016
    01 April 2016
    27 March 2016
    26 March 2016
    25 March 2016
    19 March 2016
    18 March 2016
    12 March 2016
    11 March 2016
    05 March 2016
    04 March 2016
    27 February 2016
    26 February 2016


    Rank Team P W Pts

    Opinion Poll

    The 2017 Super Rugby tournament has reached its quarter-final stage. When all is said and done, who emerges victorious?

    The ultimate Super Rugby quiz!

    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.