Many professional rugby players will tell you, the Springboks are a hard side to break into. A few players who are undoubtedly good enough for international rugby have finished their careers without ever earning a cap for the national side.
Some like Irish international, CJ Stander have opted to face up to their compatriots instead by pledging their allegiances elsewhere. Many have even gone as far as earning cult status for their adopted countries.
We compiled a list of some of the most notable players to have opted for other pastures. Some you may love to hate.
DTH van der Merwe – Canada
Not a name that will quickly ring a bell – not just because his full name is Daniel Tailliferre Hauman van der Merwe – but because he plays for one of the smaller nations, Canada. His family moved to the country when he was a teenager, where he established himself as one of their best players in history.
Mike Catt – England
Was forcibly thrust into fame in the most unflattering fashion by a rampaging Jonah Lomu during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. An embarrassing moment that almost overshadowed his long career in which he earned a World Cup winners medal in 2003.
Clyde Rathbone – Australia
The former Sharks centre and SA under-21 captain was almost destined for even higher honours in the green and gold but opted for the canary yellow of down under. His career was plagued by injuries as he failed to reach his true potential.
Dan Vickerman – Australia
Another former Junior Bok who also opted to play for the Wallabies. Had a more accomplished career than his Brumbies teammate, Rathbone earning 61 caps as he formed a solid lock pairing with Aussie legend Nathan Sharpe. Sadly passed away in February this year aged 38.
“Geldenhuys”- a classic Italian name… perhaps not. Born in Klerksdorp, he struggled to break into the Pumas side before moving to Italy where he established himself in the domestic circuit, becoming one of their national side’s most reliable players.
Carlo Antonio del Fava – Italy
A textbook Italian name but born and bred in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. Started his professional career at The Sharks where he turned up for their Currie Cup side as a 21-year old. He moved to Italy the following year, before he was called up for their national side, earning 54 caps.
Richardt Strauss – Ireland
First cousins with former Bok captain, Adriaan Strauss who he was also understudy to at the Cheetahs where he played from 2006 until he signed for Irish giants Leinster. This move earned him a call-up to the Irish side where he earned himself 17 caps.
Andrew Mehrtens – New Zealand
Another Durbanite on the list, Mehrtens’ family immigrated to New Zealand when he was just four years old. That’s where he learned his rugby, rising through the ranks and ultimately earning 70 caps for the All Blacks and finishing as their all-time points scorer. Most memorable to Bok fans for his role in the ‘95 World Cup final, which was pretty much a shootout between himself and Joel Stransky.
Rory Kockott – France
The Old Selbornian could have walked into the Springboks line-up had his best years at the Sharks not coincided with a period of riches at nine for the national team, boasting the mercurial Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar and Ricky Januarie. He instead opted to sign for French outfit Castre, where he became somewhat of a stalwart and earning himself 11 caps for the national team.
Pieter de Villiers – France
A former Springbok coach – not to be confused with the charismatic former head coach with the same name who lead the Boks to their last Tri-Nations triumph- de Villiers earned himself 68 caps for France after which he was appointed as a forwards coach for his country of birth.
CJ Stander – Ireland
Is perhaps the best South Africa not playing for the country still active in international rugby. The former Bulls player made a name for himself in Ireland, becoming an integral part of their starting XV and was part of the most recent British and Irish Lions team which ran the world champion All Blacks pretty close this year.
Has another opportunity to show the Boks what could have been when he takes them on in Dublin on Saturday.