AWARD: Nuggety Cobus Reinach. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackPagepix

It was a big weekend for South African rugby players plying their trade abroad.

Not only did Cobus Reinach win the English Premiership Player of the Month award for December, but former Junior Springbok lock Paul Willemse was called up to the France squad for the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

Let’s start with Reinach.

The 28-year-old is hot property in Europe right now.

And having represented the Springboks in 10 Tests - the last of which was as a replacement against Argentina in 2015 - he has been quite vocal about his hunger to return to the international game.

TACTICAL EDGE: Bulle scrumhalf Ivan Van Zyl. Photo: BACKPAGEPIX

With Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl currently the Springboks’ three No 9s, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will serve the national team well by looking at Reinach as an option for this year’s World Cup.

And that will put pressure on Papier and Van Zyl.

With the duo competing for a starting berth at the Bulls in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, playing time will be limited for both.

Van Zyl is usually a starter at the franchise, with Papier playing off the bench.

X-FACTOR: Embrose Papier can produce magic. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

But based on the evidence of last year’s performances in the Green and Gold, Erasmus will have to sit down with Bulls coach Pote Human to encourage him to give Papier more starts.

Van Zyl is seen as the more tactical player of the two, with Papier able to provide that moment of magic off the bench.

But in order to have a more balanced squad at the World Cup, I believe it is Papier that should start at the Bulls with the eye on making him the second or third option to De Klerk.

His X-factor is needed in a tournament where one moment of brilliance can help you lift the William Webb Ellis trophy.

Reinach, though, must be included in the World Cup squad if he continues to put in top performances for Northampton Saints.

He is more experienced than the Bok rookies in terms of internationals, with Papier currently on seven and Van Zyl on six.

So how these two Bulls will go at it in Super Rugby should determine who will book their ticket to Japan later this year.

Then there’s Willemse.

He was one of the most promising locks in South African rugby a number of years ago.

Standing 2.01m, the former Bulls and Lions second-rower moved to France in 2014 where he first played for Grenoble before moving to Montpellier.

Of his international quality, there is no doubt.

But with the plethora of locks in South Africa, it is debatable whether he would have been good enough to don the Green and Gold.

And that’s why I believe his inclusion in the French squad isn’t such a big blow to South African rugby.

Now I’ve never been a fan of players adopting a new country and then singing their new national anthem before a Test match.

But in the case of Willemse, I feel it is justified.

He realised from an early age that he is probably not a shoo-in to play for the Boks because of the depth of talent in his position and made it his mission to represent France.

So well done youngster, enjoy your international rugby career.

At the age of 26, he still has a lot to offer French rugby.

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