25 Apr 2013

Springboks award contracts in bid to keep players home

8:41 am on 25 April 2013

South Africa have handed central contracts to 15 players they believe will be at the core of Springbok rugby this year and in the wake of a growing list of defections to lucrative club offers overseas.

Emerging talent like Marcell Coetzee, Juan de Jongh, Eben Etzebeth and Pat Lambie were included, along with hooker Bismarck du Plessis who is recovering from a long-term injury.

The South African Rugby Union admits it is battling against the pull of offers to some its best players from clubs in England, France, Ireland and Japan, with six players - Andries Bekker, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Juandre Kruger, JP Pietersen and Morne Steyn - leaving to play overseas in the next months.

The six were not offered deals, and coach Heyneke Meyer says lLosing experienced players to overseas teams is not ideal, but it's their right to further their careers abroad.

Last week Meyer said players like Habana and Steyn would still be part of Springbok plans as their experience was vital to the team and he would not hesitate to use overseas-based players when available.

But with the next Rugby World Cup two years away he is expected to give more opportunity to his contract group.

A further five contracts are still available and will be finalised in due course, SARU says.

Contracted players: Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee (both Sharks), Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (both Stormers), Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis (both Sharks), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Pat Lambie, Tendai Mtawarira (both Sharks), Pierre Spies (Bulls), Francois Steyn (Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Stormers)