LONDON (Reuters) - A bearded South-Africa-born backrow forward who becomes eligible to play for Scotland a day after the World Cup starts could be key to their hopes of success in the tournament.
Josh Strauss was the surprise name in coach Vern Cotter’s squad but his form for Glasgow Warriors over the past three years make his selection anything but a gamble.
“Josh Strauss has been very impressive for Glasgow over the last couple of seasons and when he performs, the team seem to get their best results,” former Scotland backrower Simon Taylor said.
“Defensively he is solid. He seems quite a calm guy and a good leader for the guys around him.”
Strauss was preferred to the experienced Blair Cowan and John Barclay as well as young New Zealand-born flanker Hugh Blake.
He was born in Cape Town where his late father, Gerhard, played at prop for the Northerns club and his mother, Sugnet, was a talented shot-putter and high-jumper.
Strauss made a couple of Springboks squads and captained the Lions in Super Rugby, but when they were relegated in 2012 his time with the Johannesburg-based team was over.
He heard that Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend was interested in talking to him and has never regretted his decision to take his family to Scotland.
“I knew about the residency rule when I first came here, but I never gave it much thought,” said Strauss, 28.
“For me, it was all about settling in with Glasgow and proving myself.”
Scotland are in the same World Cup group as South Africa, Samoa, Japan and the United States, and it is the game against the Springboks on Oct. 3 in Newcastle that will loom largest in Strauss’s mind.
”People have asked me about it and whether I’d be conflicted playing against South Africa,“ Strauss said. ”I wouldn’t be. I tried to become a Springbok but it never happened. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
”Would I have a problem playing against them? Not in the slightest. Would my family have a problem? Not a chance. They’d be hugely proud if I ever played for Scotland.
“I‘m not sentimental about it being my old country. I love Cape Town and it will always be home, but if you’re selected to play for a team, then you play as hard as you physically can and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against,” he added.
“You focus on your own team, your team mates, your friends. That’s the way it is.”
Editing by Neville Dalton