SA Rugby magazine looks at the 14 South Africa-born players who earned selection for other nations at the 2019 World Cup.
The countries represented on the national team sheets at rugby’s marquee event revealed a connected planet and some creative definitions of ‘home’.
Of the 620 players competing at the 2019 edition, 139 weren’t born in the countries they are representing. In fact, 17 of the tournament’s 20 teams have at least one foreign-born player. South Africa and Georgia have one each, while Tonga set the record with 19.
Of the 139 foreign-born participants at the World Cup, 14 are South African, of whom 12 qualified through the much-maligned residency rule and just two were eligible because of parentage.
Here is an in-depth look at the South Africans who have not only forged an international Test career beyond the borders of this country but also managed to force their way into a World Cup squad.
Ireland’s 31-man squad for the World Cup featured two South Africans – CJ Stander (right) and Jean Kleyn. Stander is the more experienced of the two, having earned over 30 caps for Ireland since making his Test debut in 2016. Stander grew up in Riversdale and played for the Bulls, but transferred to Munster after claiming that coaches considered him too small to play flank for the Pretoria-based franchise. Kleyn, meanwhile, was more of a controversial inclusion as he took the place of the experienced Devin Toner. Having played for Munster since 2016, Kleyn qualified for Ireland on the old residency rule but his inclusion led to criticism of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and questions about the rule.
Japan had three South Africa-born playersin their squad. Lock Wimpie van der Walt and flank Peter ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne (below) both spent a good portion of their careers with South African franchises, having made their names at the Kings and Cheetahs respectively. However, wing Kotaro Matsushima also has a South African heritage. He was born in Pretoria to a Japanese mother and Zimbabwean father. He finished his schooling in Yokohama and returned to South Africa where he signed with the Sharks Academy, playing for their U19s and U21s. Matsushima moved back to Japan in 2014 and made his Test debut that year.
Scotland had two South Africa-born front rowers in their squad. Former Cheetahs tighthead WP Nel has forged a reputation as a powerful scrummager since swapping Bloemfontein for Edinburgh in 2012. Nel became eligible for Scotland through the three-year residency rule and made his Test debut in 2015, winning 31 caps before the World Cup. Loosehead prop Allan Dell, who was schooled in the Eastern Cape and played for the Sharks, qualified for Scotland through his grandmother. He made his international debut in 2016 and has won over 25 caps.
Bulky flank Braam Steyn was born and raised in Cradock in the Eastern Cape. He attended high school at Paul Roos Gimnasium and was selected for the Western Province Craven Week squad in 2009 and 2010. He furthered his career at the Sharks and earned selection for the Junior Boks in 2012 before signing for Italian club Mogliano. Stints at Calvisano and Zebre followed before he finally settled down at Treviso in 2015. After a string of standout performances and fulfilling the three-year residency requirement to qualify for an adopted nation, Steyn was selected for Italy. He made his Test debut against England in the 2016 Six Nations and chalked up 33 international caps before the start of the World Cup.
The 30-year-old Bernard le Roux hails from the small town of Moorreesburg in the Boland region. After playing for the Boland Cavaliers in the 2009 Vodacom Cup, he was asked by Jake White to join the Lions’ ranks for the 2010 Super Rugby season. But on the eve of signing for the Johannesburg-based franchise, Le Roux was offered a lucrative short-term deal by Racing. The deal put on the table by the French giants was too enticing to turn down and Le Roux accepted. He later signed a permanent deal to stay at the club and now, 10 years later, is still playing for them. Le Roux made his international debut for Le Bleus in 2013 and has been in and out of the squad. But after yet another industrious season for Racing he was recalled to complete France’s World Cup squad.
With seasoned veteran Gary Gold as head coach and legendary Springbok Jaque Fourie as defence coach, it’s hardly surprising that the USA had a healthy South African intake in their squad. Scrumhalf Shaun Davies is a product of Westville Boys’ High. He moved to the US to study at Brigham Young University in Utah. He previously represented the Ohio Aviators but now captains the Glendale Raptors. He won the first of his 25 Test caps against Georgia in 2012. Cheetahs scrumhalf Ruben de Haas emigrated to Arkansas in 2009. After completing his high school career, he opted to return to South Africa where he signed a three-year contract with the Cheetahs in 2017. The 20-year-old has played for CUT in the Varsity Cup and for Free State in the Provincial Rugby Challenge, and made his Test debut for the Eagles inJune 2018. Lastly, there’s Hanco Germishuys. The loose forward, who also doubles as a hooker, relocated to the US in 2004 when he was eight years old. He made history when he was selected for the All-American High School team (USA U19) at the age of just 14. Spells at various clubs in his adopted country followed, before stints at the Gloucester Academy and the Sharks Academy. He joined the Glendale Raptors in 2015 and made his debut for the Eagles against Brazil a year later.
Wallabies utility back Dane Haylett-Petty was born in Durban to South African parents. But when he was 10, the Haylett-Petty family emigrated to Perth, Australia. He started his rugby career at Hale High School and played for the Australian Schoolboys team in 2007. Haylett-Petty joined the Western Force in 2008 and when they were booted out of Super Rugby, he signed for the Melbourne Rebels. His first game for Australia was against England in 2016 and, with over 30 Tests under his belt, Haylett-Petty has become one of the key squad members for under-fire coach Michael Cheika.
Neither Tommaso Allan (Italy, left) nor Marcel Brache (USA) were born in South Africa, but both spent most of their playing careers in the country. Allan, the nephew of former Springbok hooker John Allan, played for Western Province before joining French side Perpignan. A year later, the flyhalf returned to Italy to play for Treviso. His first Test cap for the Azzurri was against the Wallabies. Meanwhile, Brache was born in Los Angeles but he was raised and schooled in South Africa. The 31-year-old centre went to the prestigious Rondebosch Boys’ High and later the University of Cape Town and played for both institutions’ senior rugby teams. Between 2010 and 2013, he played for Western Province in the Currie Cup and the Stormers in Super Rugby. He was then signed by the Western Force and these days plies his trade for Perth Spirit. Since his Test debut against Tonga in 2016, Brache had turned out for the Eagles 19 times before the World Cup kicked off.
– This article first appeared in the November issue of SA Rugby Magazine, now on sale