CityPress - - Sport - HEN­DRIK CRONJÉ sports@city­press.co.za

First, French rugby clubs were plun­der­ing South Africa’s lead­ing rugby tal­ent, now there is a grow­ing list of players being picked up by rich English club sides.

Jaco Kriel could be­come the fourth Spring­bok to sign a con­tract with English club Wasps, which hopes he will join Wil­lie le Roux, Juan de Jongh and Ash­ley John­son from next year.

Cobus Reinach (Northamp­ton Saints), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) and De Jongh (Wasps) ear­lier also con­firmed their move to Eng­land.

The 27-year-old Kriel did not get much of a chance to play in the Boks’ French series be­cause of a knee in­jury that also kept him off the field dur­ing the Super Rugby series.

Yes­ter­day’s third test at Ellis Park would have been his eighth. Kriel will not be el­i­gi­ble to play for South Africa if he does de­cide to trans­fer to the Wasps be­cause of the SA Rugby Union (Saru) pol­icy that stip­u­lates that only over­seas Spring­boks with 30 or more tests may be con­sid­ered for the team.

Kriel would, how­ever, have to do the maths as to his place in the queue for the num­ber six jersey.

Siya Kolisi is the man in the sad­dle for now. If Mar­cell Coet­zee and Fran­cois Louw had not been in­jured, their avail­abil­ity may have pre­cluded any sort of role for Kriel against the French.

It’s also un­clear what the Boks’ plans are for the Bulls’ Roelof Smit.

He was out for a long time af­ter a shoul­der in­jury sus­tained in a match against the Bar­bar­ians last year.

Although he’s largely been car­ry­ing wa­ter bot­tles and tackle bags for the past three weeks, there is no doubt about Kriel’s abil­i­ties.

He has been the lead­ing South African open-side flank this far in the Super Rugby series. Ac­cord­ing to Netwerk24, he got the ball 77 times and won 552m in 555 min­utes of rugby. Kriel also broke through the de­fence six times. If the Li­ons are not suc­cess­ful in re­tain­ing Kriel with the help of a Bok con­tract from Saru, he prob­a­bly won’t join Wasps be­fore Fe­bru­ary.

Be­fore that, he will still have to meet his obli­ga­tion at Frans Ludeke’s Ja­panese team, the Kub­ota Spears. Kriel has been play­ing for the Li­ons since 2010. His pos­si­ble de­par­ture will leave a big gap to fill, although Kwagga Smith last month showed that he has no plans to dis­tance him­self from the Li­ons’ num­ber six jersey.

Rap­port, City Press’ sis­ter paper, un­der­stands that the English Premier­ship is in the process of soft­en­ing its re­quire­ments for the con­tract­ing of over­seas players, which could make it pos­si­ble for an even greater num­ber of South Africans to go there to play in the near fu­ture.

Other South African players and coaches who have re­cently signed con­tracts with English sides are Demetri Ca­trak­ilis (Mont­pel­lier) and Re­naldo Bothma (Bulls), re­cruited by Har­le­quins.

Af­ter his Super Rugby du­ties with the Li­ons, Jo­han Ack­er­mann will join Glouces­ter as head coach. JP Pi­etersen played for the Le­ices­ter Tigers for a sea­son be­fore sign­ing a con­tract with French side Toulon.

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