World Cup-bound Jean Kleyn was content with never playing for Springboks

  • By Kate Nokwe

  • 15th August 2023

World Cup-bound Jean Kleyn was content with never playing for Springboks

If Jean Kleyn is to be believed, then no one was more surprised than the former Irish International’s inclusion in the Springboks’ 33-man World Cup squad.

The towering lock is indeed South African and has previously stated he grew up idolising the likes of Springbok legend Bakkies Botha, but it was only four years ago that Kleyn represented his adopted country at the 2019 World Cup. 

Since then, however, the Johannesburg-born Kleyn fell out of favour with Irish selectors, so when he became eligible for Bok selection earlier this year, he accepted an olive branch from SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

Kleyn did not make his Bok debut until July 8 against Australia, but he never expected to play more than a handful of games.

Asked by SABC Sport if he had dreamt of a World Cup selection in his wildest dreams, Kleyn did not hesitate.

“Absolutely not. It's actually quite coincidental, I was having a conversation with a mate of mine about four months ago, saying I've sort of had my chance at international rugby and that's probably the end of it now," he responded.

"And that was the very real expectation of my path forward, and I was quite happy with it."

Kleyn’s inclusion in the national team has come at a high price for a certain Lood de Jager. The 2019 Rugby World Cup winner is not even part of the travelling reserves due to a heart condition. 

Before the squad was announced, Kleyn had resigned himself to where he is in the pecking order.

"Obviously, the call from Rassie was completely out of the blue. I had no prospects in my mind anyway of ever playing for the Springboks again," he added.

"But, any opportunity like this comes by you, you can't really pass it off. And to be fair, it's paid off so far.” 

An opportunity the lock hopes he is worthy of.

“I've been very privileged to be part of the South African national team, representing my country. I've said it before - when you play for the Springboks you represent hope to a lot of people," concluded Kleyn.