There’s Another Side To South African’s Coming To Europe We Never Though About
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That’s what some people like to call South Africans when they decided to make the move to the Top 14, Aviva Premiership or PRO12. They’re also accused of abusing the rules in order to play international rugby.
Ireland in particular has been a popular and somewhat controversial destination for South African exiles. Ruan Pienaar made the move to Ulster at the peak of his powers, and is now devastated that he is being forced to leave a country he now calls home.
On the international scene no player has been in the public eye in recent months more than CJ Stander. The Munster back-row moved to Ireland back in 2012, before utilising the residency rule to play for the national side. He’s become an integral part of the Irish set-up and a hugely popular figure in Munster. Stander and his wife even recently bought their first home in Ireland.
Richardt Strauss is another South African who took advantage of the three-year rule, amassing 17 caps to date. For Strauss however, and many others, coming to Ireland wasn’t about the money or the promise of international rugby, it was about him and his family feeling safe.
“I look at the headlines from South African papers and websites every week, and speak to people back there. It’s hard not to look and see and worry.”
“My family have been lucky, there’s been cars stolen and broken into, but no violent crimes,” he said.
“I laugh at people who moan about things here in Ireland, what are you complaining about?
“Luckily now I have citizenship, I can come back and forth without having to get work permits, I’m very happy to have that. It’s a big thing because I’m so scared of going back to [South] Africa and waiting for something to happen.
“If a violent crime happens it’s too late, isn’t it? It’s too late to make a decision then. My family have been lucky, it’s great to live where they are, there’s great weather, but there’s a certain element where you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Strauss says he will go back to South Africa to visit family and friends, but Ireland is now his home and he’s not the only one.
“I spoke to Ruan [Pienaar] and he’s convinced he’ll stay in Ireland sometime after he’s done,” he said.
“Willem Nel [the Edinburgh prop] says he’ll stay in Scotland. If they get the option they’ll stay, they’ll feel safer and their kids can play around in the streets and walk to school.”
Don’t judge a book by its cover.