Springboks wishing on an Irish star ahead of 2023 season

Munster's Jean Kleyn competes in the air United Rugby Championship, Thomond Park, Limerick

The Springboks have picked Irish international Jean Kleyn ahead of other locks for the squad that will prepare for the Rugby Championship. Picture: Dan Sheridan/INPHO/Shutterstock

Published Jun 12, 2023

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Cape Town - His experience at a World Cup with Ireland, and the fact that he has a handful of Tests behind his name is what swayed the Springboks to pick Irish international Jean Kleyn ahead of other locks for the squad that will prepare for the Rugby Championship from Monday in Pretoria.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber and his assistants will start preparing their troops for the first Test of the 2023 season against Australia on July 8, with the South Africa-born Kleyn’s inclusion the only surprise in the 41-man squad.

But the Boks have to wait for approval from World Rugby regarding the Irish lock’s availability after they applied for him to switch allegiances under Regulation 8 of World Rugby’s rules and on natural birthright.

The regulation states: The player must stand down from international rugby for 36 months; The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country; Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity.

Kleyn ticks all the boxes and that’s why the Boks are eager to have him change allegiances.

An answer from rugby’s international governing body is expected this week on whether the Munster player can join the Springbok camp.

Of course, Kleyn comes with invaluable Ireland information and experience, especially with the Irish side set to face the Springboks in Group B of the World Cup in France.

It is understood that Kleyn’s international experience, he played at the 2019 World Cup for Ireland and has five Tests to his name, made him the preferred lock candidate ahead of Ruben van Heerden at the Stormers and Leinster’s Jason Jenkins.

Van Heerden only recently returned to South Africa from England but became a star in Cape Town and the 25-year-old is knocking on the door of the national team.

Stormers coach John Dobson said earlier this season that there’s no doubt in his mind that Van Heerden has the potential to play at the highest level.

Jenkins, who played a sole Springbok Test in 2018, is also unlucky not to have received a call-up, especially after he was part of Nienaber’s year-end Bok squad last year.

Since joining Leinster, he has improved his game after injuries kept hampering him when he initially moved to Ireland to play for Munster. Since his move to Dublin, he has racked up the playing time, impressing the Bok coaches.

What could’ve counted in his favour, is that he plays with a lot of Ireland stars at Leinster but the fact that he’s not that experienced most likely counted against him.

It is expected that the training squad will be trimmed further after the three-week camp when the national side will go into their preparation for the Wallabies match.

Since the last camp, other overseas Boks have joined the squad with flyhalf Handre Pollard, wing Cheslin Kolbe, loose forward Jean Luc du Preez, and props Trevor Nyakane and Vincent Koch in the mix. Pollard and Kolbe will join immediately, while the three others will all slot in later due to personal reasons and club commitments.

The Boks will start with field sessions on Monday, while the medical team will be able to take a closer look at injured players like captain Siya Kolisi, Pollard, scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and lock Eben Etzebeth.

The Springboks start their international season the second weekend of July, while the rest of the truncated Rugby Championship Tests will be against New Zealand in Auckland (July 15), and Argentina in Johannesburg (July 29).

They will then play three World Cup warm-up matches against Argentina in Buenos Aires (August 5), Wales in Cardiff (August 19), and New Zealand at Twickenham (August 25).

@Leighton_K

IOL Sport