In his latest column Henry Fraser caught up with bright English born South African prospect Timo Swiel who turned down the chance to play for South Africa u20’s at the Junior World Cup this year in order to avoid being country locked so soon.
“My long term goal and dream is to play international rugby and why block my chances at the age of 19?”
My overriding memory of Tim Swiel will always be seeing him running in under the posts against Tonbridge for Dulwich College, sealing a win against their long time rivals for the first time in seven years. It was the only time I saw him play live but it was obvious there was something special about that kid.
The try was a fifty metre sprint after a pass from Alex Nott who intercepted the ball, and his sheer speed was something to behold. I had previously been shown footage of him and it wasn’t just his speed that made him stand out. His attacking prowess and awareness made him a serious threat to any team. The fact that a YouTube video with his highlights reel has had nearly 55,000 views says everything you need to know about his attacking flare. However a recent change to the ranking system of senior national teams in South Africa means we will not see Tim help the Baby Boks defend their Junior World Championship (JWC) this month.
Some countries recently have questioned the eligibility rule of foreign players especially with New Zealand coaches berating England, the words pot, kettle and black spring to mind. The current IRB ruling with regards to eligibility is based around a ranking system of so called “senior national teams” for every country. The IRB have a ruling that if you play for the top two ranked senior national teams plus sevens then you are country locked forever and would always qualify as a foreigner if moving to play abroad.
The South African Rugby Union have recently changed the ruling from the number two team being the Emerging Boks to the u20 Boks which could put pressure on young players. Whereas in England we have the Saxons as the number two team, not an age group side.
The new ruling has meant Tim has withdrawn himself from the most recent Baby Bok squad.
Tim was born in Somerset, with his father’s family still living there. This means he carries a British passport and is more than eligible to play in England without being classed as a foreign player. But playing in the JWC will lock him into only choosing South Africa. Very odd considering how many players qualify for other countries just on the number of years they have lived there.
He kindly answered a few questions on the situation.
Do you think it could affect future selection of you decide to stay in South Africa, for club or country?
I do not think it would or will affect my future in South Africa due to the fact that your provincial union is where you mainly create your exposure to be picked nationally.
Did your exchange trip to England have any bearing on your decision?
My time on exchange definitely had a part to play because I became more familiar with England and the time I had will be an everlasting memory in terms of rugby. Surrey u18, London and South East squad u18( but left before the competition) and Dulwich College.
Was it a tough decision to make?
The decision was the hardest thing I have ever done because people could perceive me as selfish even though my biggest goal was to play, but I am thinking longer term and when I heard the rule I did not believe it at first because other countries do not have u20s as their second senior national team. I would love to have played at the JWC but the sacrifice could pay off one day. And my union/ province support my decision.
What will your main focus be now this summer?
We are going into winter now and my main focus is to improve on all the technical points of my game and keep fit and keep on with all the strength training.
This whole situation does raise issues on players being able to play for other countries on residency or family ties, when players like Tim could be denied the opportunity when they are clearly qualified.
It’s a shame we will not see such talent in this year’s Junior World Cup, but maybe one day, Swiel’s name could become quite familiar on the tongues of English rugby fans.