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Sunday, January 08, 2006


Rugby Personalities: Mehrtens to take on S African citizenship

Source: Sunday Star-Times

New Zealand rugby legend Andrew Mehrtens has revealed he is seeking a South African passport.

No folks, it isn't Rugga World humour, it's true. Mehrtens will be claiming his right to South African citizenship.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Star-Times, he also stifled speculation linking current All Blacks captain Tana Umaga with a move to English club Harlequins.

Mehrtens, who was born in South Africa, aims to exploit a loophole whereby South Africans are not counted as imports at English clubs.

His Harlequins have won all 14 matches in England's national division one - one level below the premiership - and are already planning for life back among the elite next season.

If Mehrtens can be counted as a South African it would free up a spot for another southern hemisphere player.

At the moment, the word in England is that Umaga will join Harlequins this year.

The Sun newspaper ran a story saying Harlequins had contacted Umaga about linking up with Mehrtens in London.

But, according to Mehrtens, Umaga is unlikely to be heading overseas.

"I haven't talked to Tana specifically about it, and I don't know what his plans are, although it (retiring from tests and a possible northern hemisphere swansong) has been talked about for a long time," Mehrtens said.

"He's obviously a sensational player, but whether or not he's growing tired of international rugby, I don't know.

I know his heart is still in New Zealand; he's got his family all there apart from his brother."

Umaga had been tipped to quit the All Blacks following their grand slam tour and although Mehrtens admits the centre could probably engineer his release from his New Zealand contract, he reckons Umaga's future remains on home soil.

"I don't know what he'll do," added Mehrtens, "but I'd say that he'll probably play his time out in New Zealand.

"These days all New Zealand contracts are central and you can insert `get-out' clauses based on non-selection or whatever. I don't know what his individual status is but I can imagine he was able to name quite a few of his own clauses."

Meanwhile, Mehrtens is waiting on the paperwork for his South African passport.

The 32-year-old was born in Durban and if he does succeed in obtaining the South African passport it would allow 'Quins director of rugby - former England No8 Dean Richards - to ship in another overseas star.

"I'm looking at it because South Africans play as locals over here," Mehrtens said.

"But I've been investigating it from a while back - even before l looked seriously at coming to the UK I'd realised that it would be a bit of a plus.

"My mum and dad are both New Zealanders who went there on a bit of a delayed honeymoon and ended up working over there.

"They loved the climate in Durban and dad started playing some rugby and stayed there for five years. I was born in the last year of that and they only decided to go home because they wanted me to be brought up in New Zealand.

"Mum's father had also had a stroke so they thought it was time to go home - otherwise they could have settled there for good."

"Mehrtens the Springbok" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "Mehrtens the All Black", and the player himself admits he wouldn't have had it any other way.

"I'm happy how it turned out and always considered myself a New Zealander, albeit with something a little bit extra.

"When I was growing up I was quite proud of the fact that I was a bit different, having been born in a different country, but then all the kerfuffle with apartheid went on and I wasn't quite as proud of it any more."

Mehrtens has settled well in London and with another 18 months left on his deal, looks set to light up the premiership next season.

"I'm loving it, really enjoying living over here," he said.
It pains me that with our dearth of flyhalf experience currently in SA, we completely missed the opportunity of signing the likes of Mehrtens and Carlos Spencer.

The recent revelations that the Stormers are looking to sign David Humphreys puts the lie to any possible claim that Mehrtens or Spencer are 'over the hill'.
agreed ras,

what is more disturbing is humphreys is 34, and i dont rate him that highly, NH players are not used to the pace of the game in the super 14, it would have been much wiser to look at an SH player from the likes you mentioned.

imagine the tips and role a mehrtens could have played and given grant????
Now what if we recruited Jason Leonard and Keith Wood to come to South Africa?

This would be to upskill our local talented youth, not this pretense and sham by Breweries to underwrite a fast tracking skills program for blacks.

This is a band aid notion held up by Jake White to the public that this is the way to do it.

It is outside the system and a creation by White and led by Brendan Venter, to what purpose? Some cheap publicity stunt and SAB have been intoxicated by this notion.

It is a sham!
There are quite a few black Springboks in the SAB 'scam' group too.
Somehow it makes me think about black guys who went to private or other good schools etc. and come from a rich background and are termed "previously disadvantaged" just because of their skin colour.
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