Playing for the Boks is a privilege, says De Villiers

Peter de Villiers said on Wednesday that South African rugby players who ply their trade abroad must be made to realise that it remains a privilege to play for the Springboks.

The Springbok coach was airing his views on the controversial issue of calling up overseas-based players for Springbok duty.

“Only John Smit knew of his selection prior to the announcement of the training squad,” said De Villiers. “Players abroad must always realise that it is a privilege to play for the Springboks.

“That’s why I was glad that Butch James was jumping up and down when he heard of his selection.”

De Villiers said he had told Springbok captain Smit of his call-up but he did not inform Percy Montgomery, Butch James or Victor Matfield.

“Once they were selected we made contact with them and then contacted their clubs to find out about their availability.

“I also have to think about locally based players,” said De Villiers. “I don’t want players in our domestic competition to think that they are at a disadvantage [that selectors are focusing on players abroad].”

Ever since his appointment as successor to World Cup-winning coach Jake White, De Villiers made it clear that he was not overly enthusiastic about calling up foreign-based players.

However, the four players he has called up will form the backbone of the Springbok challenge in the upcoming Tests, and no doubt it will enhance De Villiers’s chances of starting his tenure as the Bok coach on a winning note.

Thanks to De Villiers’s approach of late, the four players are looking to forgo their overseas campaigns and play locally instead.

While they will all offer great value they will hardly be available for Currie Cup duty, given the heavy Springbok schedule in the next four months.

They could prove to be far greater assets for Super 14 teams in next year’s competitions, although these players could very expensive.

De Villiers said he already knows who will be in his starting XV against Wales on Saturday June 7 in Bloemfontein.

“There could be two or three surprises, because I must also think of the future,” said De Villiers.

“The thing is, we can’t control injuries and other players may be needed by then.”

The Bok coach said the extensive training squad was assembled with the 2011 World Cup in mind.

The aim was to make the training squad aware and understand the structures at Springbok level. Being part of a training squad will help with the selection process in the next four years.

“Being part of a training group also helps players to understand the Springbok philosophy,” De Villiers explained. “This training camp will set the tone for the next four years. When necessary, we need to know what players we can call on. It’s a long-term plan.”

At the end of next week, De Villiers will trim the squad to 30 players, from which the 22-member match-day squads to play Wales will be selected.

The players who are not selected will be considered for Chester Williams’s Emerging Springboks side that will be campaigning in Europe next month.—Sapa

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