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'Maybe Springboks needed outside influence'

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'I had doubts if I would ever play test rugby again'

Vincent Koch has revealed he feared missing the 2019 Rugby World Cup after signing for Saracens but is backing Rassie Erasmus to mastermind a successful campaign in Japan based on key overseas based players.

Sale’s Faf de Klerk, Kubota Spears and former Toulon No8 Duane Vermuelen, Francois Louw (Bath) and Willie le Roux at Wasps joined Koch in being recalled to the Springbok squad as head coach Erasmus ended the policy of ignoring players who had signed for top European and Japanese clubs and did not have 30 caps

De Klerk had a remarkable comeback year helping South Africa take last year’s series against England and was on the shortlist for World Rugby Player of the Year. Koch ended a two year exile by playing against New Zealand in Pretoria last October and then took part in the Autumn wins over France and Scotland plus the loss to Wales – his 13th cap.

For Koch, the chance to win a place in the Springbok World Cup squad is always on his mind although his priority is to help Saracens defeat Glasgow in the European Champions Cup clash on Saturday to ensure a home quarter-final tie and then make sure the reigning English champions are in the mix for the Gallagher Premiership title at the end of the season.

Koch, 28, told RugyPass: “I always had doubts if I would ever play test rugby again for the Springboks and thanks to a coaching change I have been able to play. Rassie wants the best for South African rugby and guys from Europe who joined the Springbok set up did put their hands up like Willie and Faf.

“Maybe the Springboks needed guys to come from the outside and share their feelings and experiences from Europe and elsewhere. For me it was amazing to be part of the squad and hopefully we can all make the World Cup squad. Things are looking good and all of the squad are working hard to get the Springboks to where they were.

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“Rassie has played a massive role in the whole change with the Springboks set up. What he brings is unreal. He has a calmness – the players never feel under undue pressure and the guys can feel the change which creates a healthy environment for them to enjoy their rugby again. Of course there is pressure because it’s international rugby but it is easier than in the past.

“For those of us playing in Europe it is a bit different because they are building up to the Super Rugby season back in South Africa and the coaches will be looking at those games. Of course the World Cup is always at the back of my mind, but I need to perform for Sarries in Europe and the Premiership. For now, it is about playing well for Sarries and if I do that then it will help me be part of the Springbok World Cup squad.”

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'I had doubts if I would ever play test rugby again'