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Premiership Rugby

Van Straaten to return to South Africa

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The 31-year-old has been instrumental in firing last year's bottom-placed side up the English standings this season after amassing 203 points in his 16 Premiership matches, and is seeking a move back to his homeland for family reasons.

"His contract expires in June," Van Straaten's agent Craig Livingstone told Planet Rugby. "We've put the feelers out, and already we've had a lot of interest."

Van Straaten has no particular preference on his eventual destination at this stage, although Livingstone did hint that Western Province was close to his heart after the success he achieved in their Currie Cup-winning sides of 2000 and 2001.

"When Braam comes back he may not walk into the World Cup squad immediately, which means that whichever province he joins could have some use out of him during the Currie Cup."

Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli will announce a World Cup training squad ahead of the Currie Cup, thereby withdrawing the top players from South Africa's premier domestic competition, but it does not stop the Bok coach from calling up the in-form provincial players for eventual World Cup duty.

Van Straaten, who has played Currie Cup rugby for the Blue Bulls, the Eagles, the Falcons and WP, has to play one provincial match in order to be eligible for South Africa after spending the past two seasons abroad, which according to an SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd regulations, makes players ineligible for Bok selection.

He is not the first player to return to his homeland in order to press for World Cup selection, with former Springbok and Stormers team-mates Pieter Rossouw and Rob Kempson having preceded him, having left London Irish and Ulster respectively, Kempson only on a temporary basis however.

Van Straaten insists his decision to return to South Africa is predominantly family-based, although reports state that he had been asked to take a pay cut of around 30 percent by his English employers as financial woes mount in the British club game.

"My reasons are family and the superior lifestyle that South Africa offers," he told the Cape Times.

"My wife is expecting our second child. The weather in England is so bad that they can hardly go outside. I have therefore made the decision to come back. I am going to play in the Currie Cup and if I make the World Cup squad, that will be a bonus."

While Leeds have a ready-made goal-kicking replacement in Scotland fly-half Gordon Ross, it is Van Straaten's potential international return that now remains the biggest question mark, with the likes of the Cats' André Pretorious and the Sharks' Butch James having been the recent choices of Bok coach Rudolf Straeuli.

In the search for consistency going into a World Cup year, the reliable Van Straaten could well be an option, especially with his knowledge of English players going into their pool clash in Perth.

By Howard Kahn and Mark Smith


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