Strauss now officially an Irishman
The Springboks’ opening test of their November tour against Ireland is set to be billed a “family battle” after former Free State hooker Richardt Strauss was selected on Wednesday for the Ireland squad.
Strauss, who qualified via residency after playing for Leinster for the past three years, could face his cousin Adriaan, the current Springbok vice-captain if both are selected for the Boks' first tour match against the Irish at Aviva Stadium on November 10.
When the older Strauss – whose brother Andries has just signed for the EP Kings from Free State – was called up to the Irish squad for the Six Nations earlier this year, it was inevitable that he would be selected for the November test matches, with a mouth-watering battle on the cards if selections play themselves out.
South African assistant coach for Ireland, Gert Smal said that Strauss had improved significantly as a player since he had joined Leinster in 2009, shortly after facing the British and Irish Lions as a substitute for the Cheetahs. Now Strauss could even force his way into the British and Irish Lions side to tour Australia next year.
"He is a different player to the last two years," Smal told the Irish Independent. "He has bulked up quite a bit. His performances speak for themselves. We know what he can do for a pack. For the past two years he has really come through quite strongly.
"It is not just because he is South African, we look at all hookers, we don't discount anybody, but what he can bring to a team is his attitude, which is very good, good to pack down and good in the scrums and we will have to work with him in the line-outs and see how he goes."
While Strauss’s inclusion was one aspect, Ireland lost Rob Kearney to injury, although their squad still looks very strong.
"We have three incredibly competitive games ahead of us in November and while there have been quite a few injuries and niggles in the early part of the season, it has opened up opportunities for other players to step into the squad,” Irish coach Declan Kidney said.
"There are world ranking points on offer, so the underlying challenge for us is to work towards retaining and improving our ranking position ahead of the Rugby World Cup pool draw in December.
"While that is the end goal, our focus will be getting our preparations right to match the intensity of international games.”
Strauss, however, said earlier this year his career in South Africa was at a dead-end, but the move gave him a new lease on life and an international career he never would have had at the Cheetahs.
“I have said before, that at that stage of my career I felt I was stagnating. Where I was, I didn’t see myself getting any game time and I didn’t leave there on the best of terms. The opportunity to play international rugby was a big, big factor. But I spoke to Ollie Le Roux and CJ van der Linde. I knew them well and after that was excited about what was going on here,” he told the Irish Times in February this year.
“The lads here have made me feel really comfortable from the first day. It is hard to get used to the way the Irish people do things, their habits and that sort of thing. It is much different to how it is in South Africa. I can walk in here every morning with a smile on my face, be really comfortable with everyone and have a chat with anyone. I feel at home.”
Either way, his selection adds more spice to an already tough fixture for the Boks.
Rory Best (Ulster), Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), John Muldoon (Connacht), Conor Murray (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster)