South Africa
Mystery as Frans Steyn withdrawn from Springboks squad
ESPN Staff
June 11, 2014
South Africa's Francois Steyn takes the ball into contact, South Africa v Argentina, The Rugby Championship, Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa, August 18, 2012
Frans Steyn withdrew from the Springboks squad for "unspecified reasons" © PA Photos

The Springboks' Test build-up has taken a major blow after it was announced Sharks centre Frans Steyn had withdrawn from the squad for unspecified reasons, although it appears that a failure to agree contractual terms with the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is at the heart of the decision.

On a day the two parties both issued their own statements, the SARU said that officials had been advised by Steyn that he did not wish to be considered for the incoming Test series against Wales and after a lengthy discussion with the Sharks, the Springboks had made a decision to accept his request.

Steyn in turn said he enjoyed the Springbok environment and had a good relationship with the team and the management. "The environment in the Springbok squad is fantastic," he said, "and I would like to state categorically that my relationship with Heyneke Meyer, the rest of the management and my team-mates is very good."

Bad timing

  • When players withdraw from matches for unspecified reasons, the media usually keeps a respectful distance as it often is a very personal matter. But it appears for all the world that the reason in this instance relates to ongoing negotiations over his contract with the SARU, and there are enough other signals in the statements from the two sides to suggest this is what it is all about.

    In the modern era, every player has his worth and has a right to try to ply his trade as he sees fit. International calls often clash with that to some degree, but few top players are not well rewarded for playing.

    It is Steyn's right to withdraw if he does not feel he is being paid enough; equally, it is the board's right not to bow to every demand and to decide the terms - financial and logistical - which work best for it.

    Steyn should not be criticised for his decision - even if it may not make him overly popular with team-mates and the South African public - but what leaves a slightly sour taste is that he pulled out days before the first Test against Wales, which cannot have helped in the team's preparations for the match.

SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said Steyn had asked for privacy and that the team management would not speculate on the reasons behind his decision to make himself unavailable or his likely return.

"This is not an ideal situation, but in other instances, sudden player absences through injury are not uncommon and I am sure that Heyneke and the selectors will adapt to his unavailability," said Roux. "Frans is now out of the squad and the team management will respect his wish for privacy by not speculating on his decision or his likely return."

Steyn had been playing with a chronic knee injury through the Super Rugby season and looked like a player in need of a rest both in the last few Super Rugby rounds and in the World XV game, however Roux would not shed any further light on Steyn's request.

"I have spoken at length to Frans and we are happy to accede to his request," said Roux. "He has asked for some time to consider his international playing future and we must respect that. Let me make it clear he has not retired from international rugby, but is taking a break from it."

The Springboks team will be announced on Wednesday, and apart from the inside-centre and possibly half-back positions, the side is likely to remain the same from last week's friendly international against a World XV at Newlands.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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