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How Rassie changed my life

Jean Kleyn has explained the life-changing affects of two phone calls from Rassie Erasmus that jetted him from Cape Town to Limerick, and eventually the Springboks.

After a surprise call-up to the Bok squad for the 2023 Rugby Championship, Kleyn – who played five Tests for Ireland in 2019 – was on Tuesday named in the 33-man contingent for South Africa’s title defence in France in September-October.

MORE: Kleyn proud to walk in Eben’s footsteps

A second-row bruiser in the mould of Bok enforcer Eben Etzebeth, Kleyn made his debut for the world champions in a resounding victory against Australia on 8 July, and started again in a win over Argentina.

Kleyn started his professional career at Western Province, but found himself on the fringes at the Stormers after a bad run of injuries. A career lifeline came from Erasmus, who had been appointed as Munster’s head coach in 2016.

After qualifying on the residency rule, Kleyn played for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup, but never represented his adopted nation after the tournament. He shot back onto Erasmus’ radar after helping Munster go on an incredible run of away victories to win the United Rugby Championship.

“When Rassie went to Munster in 2016, he phoned me saying he was looking for a tighthead lock,” Kleyn told the Irish Examiner.

“I was 22 years old, I had no ties at the time in terms of family and I took the chance. Three years later I was in the Ireland squad and I’ve now been with Munster for seven years. I have one year left on my contract, but I hope to stay longer. I have an Irish wife and we have a six-month-old baby.

“To be honest, I never thought a return to South Africa was on the cards, I didn’t think I would be playing in the 2023 World Cup because I haven’t been involved with the Ireland team for years. So it was a bit of a shock when Rassie phoned me again at the end of May asking me if I wanted to be part of the Springbok training squad.

“From that day I started to think about another World Cup, but I’ve tried to focus on just doing my best, I’ve devoted the last two months to try and get into that squad. The World Cup is the be-all and end-all in rugby, it’s an incredible honour to be selected again and I’m just delighted.”

Full interview


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