Strauss edges closer to playing green card
IT HAS been the subject of much debate and discussion for the two and half years that Richardt Strauss playing for Ireland was a possibility, but his eligibility is fast becoming a reality.
The Leinster hooker may have grown up dreaming of wearing green of a different hue, but professional reality saw him up sticks at the age of 23 and move from Bloemfontein to Wicklow and throw his lot in with Ireland.
He is due to qualify on the grounds of residency in October and has trained with Declan Kidney's squad over the past number of weeks.
Modern international rugby is full of examples of players who have done the same -- indeed the England team that narrowly lost to Wales on Saturday included five players who were not born there. It is a modern phenomenon that grates with many, but for the player it is about reaching the highest level.
According to Strauss, he feels at home in Ireland and playing international rugby was part of the reason he came over.
"Training with Ireland was a good experience," he said. "But at the moment we are only concentrating on what is going on in the Leinster camp. It was just a quick jump in for the scrums and that, but it was good.
"Obviously I am open to the idea of playing for Ireland. It would be great to do that. I have said before, that at that stage of my career before coming to Leinster I felt I was stagnating.
"The opportunity to play international rugby was a big, big factor in coming here.
"But as well I spoke to (former Leinster front-rows) Ollie le Roux and CJ van der Linde -- I knew them well -- and after that, was excited about what was going on here.
"The lads here have made me feel really comfortable from the first day. It is hard to get used to the way the Irish people do things, their habits and that sort of thing. It is much different to how it is in South Africa.
"But I can walk in here every morning with a smile on my face, be really comfortable with everyone and have a chat with anyone. I feel at home."
Strauss believes he has improved as a player since coming here and the emphasis on the scrum and line-out has been key to him enhancing his game.
"The big thing is the set-piece. They concentrate on it a lot more here than they do back home in South Africa," he said.
"The type of coaching we get in certain aspects of your game is unbelievable. Look at the work that Greg Feek has done with the scrum, my line-out throwing with Jono (Gibbes). The work we do is unbelievable and it is not the same emphasis in South Africa."