All 20 squads for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup have been announced and looking at the 558 players named in the 18 non-African teams for the biggest showpiece in world rugby, a number of names sound familiar.
Excluding the Springboks and our neighbours Namibia, 15 players from other countries were either born in South Africa, or have strong ties to rugby here in the Republic.
While only one the Boks in Japan was not born in South Africa (Tendai Mtawarira was born in Zimbabwe), only three countries feature no foreign-born players in their 31 man squads – Namibia, Argentina and Uruguay.
The hosts, Japan, and the USA “lead the charge” with a combined seven players with strong South African links in their squads.
The USA Eagles, under the guidance of former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold as head coach and former Springbok midfielder Jaque Fourie as one of their assistant coaches, have three SA-born players in their squad, and one who made a name for himself here.
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Marcel Brache, who will play at the RWC for the USA, was born in California, but played Vodacom Super Rugby for the DHL Stormers and the Western Force. He first made his mark in South Africa for the University of Cape Town in the FNB Varsity Cup.
Hanco Germishuys was born in Kimberley but relocated to the USA while still at primary school. He returned for a short stint at the Sharks Academy in 2015 but has played most of his senior rugby in the USA, representing their U19 and U20s earlier in his career before making his Test debut for the Eagles in 2016.
Ruben de Haas, whose father Pieter played provincial rugby in South Africa in the 1990s, made a big impression in the States and is one of the youngest members of their squad. His parents moved to the USA in 2009 but Ruben was back in South Africa in recent years, playing in the FNB Varsity Cup for the Central University of Technology and the Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV.
Shaun Davies was born in Durban and currently plays for the Glendale Raptors in the MLR. He made his Eagles Test debut in 2012.
For Japan, Kotaro Matsushima was born in Pretoria, but he moved to Japan while still at school. But Lappies Labuschagne and Wimpie van der Walt may be better known to rugby supporters in South Africa.
Lappies Labuschagne played 49 Vodacom Super Rugby matches for the Toyota Cheetahs and Vodacom Bulls, and was a member of the Springbok squad in June 2013, but didn’t play in any Tests.
Wimpie van der Walt, who went to Nelspruit High School like Duane Vermeulen, played Vodacom Super Rugby for the Isuzu Southern Kings and Vodacom Bulls before making a permanent move to Japan in 2014.
Ireland and Scotland have two South Africans each in their squads, one of whom, CJ Stander, is a former Junior Springbok captain.
Stander led the SA Under-20s in 2010 and played Vodacom Super Rugby for the Vodacom Bulls. In 2012, he was one of six Young Guns invited to the Springbok squad, but shortly thereafter he signed with Munster in Ireland and made his Test debut in the Six Nations in 2016, a few months after becoming eligible for his adopted country on residency grounds.
Stander has played more than 30 matches for Ireland since and also made his Test debut for the British & Irish Lions against the All Blacks in 2017.
Jean Kleyn, a team-mate of Stander at Munster, only recently qualified for Ireland but was included in their RWC squad on the back of only a handful of Tests. He played Vodacom Super Rugby for the DHL Stormers.
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Like Stander, Allan Dell also played for the Junior Boks, while he played provincial rugby for the Cell C Sharks. He was a member of the SA squad that won the World Rugby U20 Championship on home soil in 2012 and moved to Edinburgh in 2014, making his Test debut in 2016.
Dell’s partner in the Scottish front row, WP Nel, has been with Edinburgh since 2012. He played provincial rugby for DHL WP, Boland and the Toyota FS Cheetahs, as well as Vodacom Super Rugby for the Toyota Cheetahs, before packing his bags for the UK.
Nel made his Test debut in 2015 and played in the Rugby World Cup in England later that year, playing off the bench against the Boks in Newcastle in their pool match.
Apart from the names mentioned above, Australia, Italy, France and Canada all feature on player from South Africa.
Braam Steyn, who hails from Cradock in the Eastern Cape, was a team-mate of Dell in the SA Under-20 squad in 2012, but he moved to Italy in 2013 and made his Test debut three years later, in 2016.
Wallaby outside back Dane Haylett-Petty was born in Durban but moved to Australia when he was still a youngster, and has been a stalwart in the gold jersey in the last few years.
Bernard le Roux, born in Moorreesburg in the Western Cape, played for Boland in his younger days, but he’s been in France for 10 years and made his Test debut way back in 2012.
And finally, the most experienced of the lot is DTH van der Merwe, who will be playing in his fourth Rugby World Cup for Canada, hails from Worcester but moved to Canada with his family before he finished high school. He made his debut for the Canucks in 2006 and has represented them in more than 50 Tests.
Marcell Coetzee aims to put his double Rugby World Cup disappointment behind him by starring for the Springboks in their series against the British & Irish Lions in 2021, but in the meantime his full focus is on helping Ulster to Guinness PRO14 and European success.
The 2019 Players’ Player of the Year Award was scooped up by Pieter-Steph du Toit at the annual Players Choice Awards held by MyPlayers in Johannesburg on Tuesday evening.
SA Rugby confirmed on Wednesday that the Springboks will face Scotland and Georgia in three home Tests in the new international window of July 2020, as part of the Castle Lager Incoming Series match schedule.
The Isuzu Southern Kings are hoping that their try-scoring machine, former Junior Springbok winger Yaw Penxe, will be ready for their next Guinness PRO14 match against Connacht, but they are not banking on it.
Former Blue Bulls and Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan is now into his third season as head coach of Irish club, Munster, in the Guinness PRO14 and he is eager to take the next step at the club by collecting some silverware.
The oldest member of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup squad, Schalk Brits, has retired from rugby for the second time in two years, but he insists this time it’s the real deal as he reflects on a career that ended on the highest of high notes in Japan.