De Villiers: Player movement is making world rugby more competitive

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  • Post published:March 23, 2024

Springbok legend Jean de Villiers has applauded the recent Six Nations for showcasing how competitive global rugby has become at Test level, and how the shift of players between countries as well as between international clubs in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship is enhancing this.

Reflecting on the recent Six Nations, De Villiers says it was a perfect example of how the global game is changing and increasing its competitive depth across the board as individual players take up the greater opportunities the new eligibility laws in the game are offering them.

“With the new eligibility laws in world rugby, you’re seeing the influence of foreign-born players qualifying for other countries and certainly strengthening those countries. If you look at the Six Nations, most of those teams have an influence of foreign-born players who are really adding value to their adopted team. That has strengthened the game across the board,” says De Villiers.

“From a South African point of view, the supporters need to get used to South African surnames playing for other countries. As a player you’re getting the exposure by playing in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, and it’s so much easier to track a player now if he doesn’t stake a claim for the Springbok set-up, it’s easy to pull him into another club in one of the other countries, and over time to be able to qualify for that country or even through parents or grandparents. That’s just where it’s going. It’s more business-like in terms of the players making decisions where they get opportunities and I think the south African fans need to get used to that.”

The predictability of an Ireland victory in the Six Nations should also not overshadow what De Villiers believes was the true success story of this year’s competition.

“It was a bit of one-way traffic for the first three weekends with Ireland just dominating. The signs were always there that they would take the Six Nations again. So congratulations to Ireland, but I think the success story of the Six Nations was Italy. After being slaughtered in two games at the Rugby World Cup, they came back with a new coaching staff and put up performances that really tested the best in the world. It’s very much Italy’s success story this Six Nations.

“The global game is certainly more competitive. You’re probably still looking at about five or six teams that are really good, but certainly the next crop can stake a claim that on the day they’re good enough to beat those top teams. Probably not good enough to do it three weekends in a row as you need to win a Rugby World Cup, but they can compete on a once-off.”

Issue by Michael Vlismas Media