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Springboks confirm Esterhuizen and others absent versus England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

Next week is going to be a weird one for Andre Esterhuizen, the midfielder who is starting at inside centre for the Springboks when they take on Italy in Genoa this Saturday. Rather than stay with Jacques Nienaber’s squad for the tour-ending November 26 match with England at Twickenham, he will instead say his goodbyes at Heathrow airport and report for duty at Harlequins.

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The London club have a Gallagher Premiership at Gloucester on November 25 to prepare for and that will take priority for Esterhuizen as the Springboks’ Test match falls outside this month’s agreed player release window governing players that play for clubs outside their country.

The current player release window covers only the first three weekends of November during which the Springboks have had matches against Ireland, France and now Italy.

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The final Test match against England is classed as an additional fixture and it means that the Harlequins-based Esterhuizen, the Leicester-based Jasper Wiese and the French-based quartet of Vincent Koch, who recently joined Stade Francais, Racing’s Trevor Nyakane, Toulon’s Cheslin Kolbe and Montpellier’s Cobus Reinach are all set to be unavailable to Springboks boss Nienaber when regulation nine is applied.

Wiese’s Leicester are at home to London Irish on November 27 in the Premiership while Nyakane’s Racing host Clermont. Koch’s Stade host Kolbe’s Toulon and Reinach’s Montpellier welcome Bayonne the previous day in the Top 14. Regulation nine, though, won’t affect the availability of the Springboks’ Japanese-based contingent as the new club season has yet to start there.

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The situation regarding Esterhuizen was something the Springboks head coach admitted influenced his midfield selection this weekend, omitting Jesse Kriel and switching Damian de Allende to outside centre so that Esterhuizen could be accommodated at No12. “In terms of Andre, Jesse did well but some of our players won’t be available against England because it is out of the Test window,” explained Nienaber.

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“Andre is one of them and he has been with us now for the whole year, has been training well and he deserves a chance. We always earmarked this game if there weren’t injuries to give him a proper go.

“We think the combination of Andre with Damian is a great combination, especially when you face a side like Italy. Jesse was exceptional in the last two games that he played for us but looking forward to seeing the combination of those two guys together.”

Saturday will be Esterhuizen’s first appearance in this Autumn Nations Series. In contrast, Kolbe will have started three times and Wiese twice before they are released to their clubs. Koch will have benched for three games and Reinach twice. Nyakane has yet to feature this November.

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