Scotland South Africans

Kyle Steyn and Duhan van der Merwe celebrate a try for Scotland. Photo: Via Scottish Rugby.

Under the spotlight: Four South Africans out to derail Springboks’ World Cup title defence

REVEALED: The South African quartet the Springboks should be worried about.

Scotland South Africans

Kyle Steyn and Duhan van der Merwe celebrate a try for Scotland. Photo: Via Scottish Rugby.

When the Springboks start their Rugby World Cup title defence against Scotland, the majority of South Africans will stand behind them in support. But there are four Saffas who’ll want nothing more than for the Boks to lose on the day.

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Scotland has four South African-born players in their ranks. WP Nel, Pierre Schoeman, Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn were all included in the 33-man Scottish squad for the showpiece tournament in France.

Three of them qualified for Scotland via the three-year residency law, while the fourth was eligible for selection through his mother, who is from Glasgow.

The four of them are all mainstays in Scotland’s Test side and are bound to feature in the Pool B opener against the Springboks at the World Cup.

Below, we explore the potential threat each of them poses to the Springboks’ World Cup title defence, which could well take a telling blow if South Africa were to lose against the Scots.




Nel is no stranger to South Africans. Before his move to Europe, he was a household name on the local rugby scene, with well over 100 domestic games for the Western Province, Boland and the Cheetahs combined.

He signed for Edinburgh in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Nel qualified to play Scotland in 2015 on grounds of the year-year residency law.

At 37, he is one of the oldest players heading to France for the World Cup, but that also makes him one of the most experienced campaigners at the tournament.

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A homegrown talent who worked his way through the ranks at the Bulls, Schoeman was always destined for big things. He played for SA Schools (U18) and would later also turn out for the Junior Springboks.

But he followed in Nel’s footsteps, making a move to Edinburgh in 2018 and becoming eligible for Scotland three years later in 2021.

Scrumming down at loosehead, Schoeman will be up against Steven Kitshoff when the Springboks and Scotland clash in Marseille on 10 September.

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In addition to being a South African citizen, Van der Merwe also has strong ties to the Springboks. He is the younger brother of Springbok hooker Akker van der Merwe.

But unlike his brother, the younger Van der Merwe sibling couldn’t quite settle down in South African rugby to establish his career as he would have liked to.

After struggling to get a proper breakthrough at the Bulls, he moved to Montpellier in France. When that didn’t work out, the big man made a surprise move to Edinburgh, where his career sparked to life.

Now, Duhan van der Merwe is one of the biggest names in the game, and he has his sights on the Springboks. A bulking winger, he easily dwarfs all of the Springboks’ wing options.

Him coming up against South Africa adds another storyline to the highly-anticipated World Cup clash that is looming large.

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They may play for Scotland, but Steyn has a unique South African story. His father, Rory Steyn, former president Nelson Mandela’s head of security after his ascent to the highest office in the country.

And with Steyn Junior and all his siblings being born free (born after 1994), the player grew up in close proximity to the great man Mandela.

But now, decades later, Steyn is playing for Scotland, where his maternal relatives were born, and he will be looking to dent South Africa’s World Cup hopes by scoring a try or two against them as Scotland aim to beat the Springboks.

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Kyle Steyn Mandela South Africans
Kyle Steyn as a young boy with former president Nelson Mandela. Photo: Via Instagram.