There may come a point in the not too distant future where the vast majority of the Springboks are selected from abroad. For now at least, the rule change earlier this year which allowed Rassie Erasmus to assemble his best possible squad creates a sense of trepidation ahead of their World Cup opener against the All Blacks.

Erasmus, who doubles as director of rugby, persuaded South African powerbrokers in February to officially draw a line through the rule which previously excluded many overseas-based South Africans from national selection.

"To get us back on track we had to scrap the 30 test match rule," Erasmus explained after naming his strongest side to face the All Blacks in Yokohama this weekend. "We were sixth in the world, we were rock bottom, and pretty despondent losing to Japan and a few other teams that we shouldn't lose to."

That rock bottom state Erasmus refers to came prior to his tenure, following the record 57-0 drubbing from the All Blacks in Albany two years ago.


Since taking the reins Erasmus has rebuilt the Boks to the point they are again World Cup contenders – the one solitary point separating them and the All Blacks in the past four tests reflective of their vast improvements.

Of those tightly-fought contests, South Africa's upset win over the All Blacks in Wellington last year was their major turning point but the often overlooked eligibility change has formed the backbone of their rejuvenated status.

One of Erasmus' first points of call after returning from Ireland to lead the Boks was to coax influential No 8 Duane Vermeulen back to South Africa.

Vermeulen, though, is swimming against the tide.

With the Rand in a dire state (1-11NZD), talent continues to flood out of South Africa to wealthy European clubs at such pace that the Northern Hemisphere pays many of South Africa's leading players.

Had Erasmus not changed the parameters which now give him the freedom to pick overseas-based stars, he would have been robbed of Faf de Klerk, one of the world's leading halfbacks who plays for Sale Sharks in England.

Cheslin Kolbe, the Toulouse wing with the electric feet and lethal speed, would also be excluded.

Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus. Photo / Photosport
Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus. Photo / Photosport

All told the Boks team to face the All Blacks features six players – fullback Willie le Roux, lock Franco Mostert, flanker Francois Louw and backline utility Frans Steyn the others – who play their club rugby abroad.


In the years to come that number will only increase with first five-eighth Handre Pollard signed to take Aaron Cruden's place at Montpellier and Eben Etzebeth joining Toulon.

Many more will follow, leaving question marks about the future state of the South African domestic game.

For this World Cup, without such leading figures, the Springboks would be no match for the All Blacks this weekend.

As much as their victory in Wellington changed the team's mindset, giving them the belief to again challenge the world's best, even on home soil, this selection policy switch paved the way for the Boks to arrive in Japan with a more complete squad.

"We tend to lose players in their prime going overseas and then you get wonderful talent in South Africa but they seem to lack that big match temperament, that knowledge and experience in vital situations," Erasmus said.

"We needed to get guys like Duane and Faf and others back into the team to rebuild faith and get the supporters behind us and bring some aura back to the Springbok team.

"The challenge was not just to select guys for the ego thing. That's why we did a round the world trip to find out who really has the burning desire to play for South Africa and the badge.

"We made sure we only selected those guys because there are a lot playing overseas just for the money.

"The current six they are currently losing out on money from their clubs and sacrificing by playing for the Springboks. They aren't earning more money playing for the Springboks so they are the kind of guys you want.

"They have been vital for our rebuilding."

Short term the Boks are a much more daunting proposition for the presence of their European talent.

Long term they probably had no choice but to open the floodgates.