Munster’s South African lock Jean Kleyn has revealed his desire to represent Ireland at Test level.
The 24-year-old left Cape Town and the Stormers two years ago, signed by Munster’s then director of rugby Rassie Erasmus having slipped through the Springboks net, overlooked at U20 level and for subsequent national team camps.
His arrival in the autumn of 2016 means he will be eligible for Ireland selection under existing World Rugby residency rules in September 2019, although Erasmus’s return to the South African fold as his home union’s director of rugby will mean Kleyn will no longer be flying under the Boks’ radar.
Yet the 6ft 8in second row is enjoying life in Limerick, even “loving the cold” weather and in an interview with Sky Sports ahead of Munster’s Champions Cup trip to Paris to play Racing 92 on Sunday, Kleyn spoke of his Test ambitions.
“When I moved over I knew full well that my career wouldn’t be continued in South Africa,” he said.
“I’ve laid down my roots here and I’m pretty intent on just staying here and if it happens that I do get the call-up to the Irish squad in the future, I’d love to play, but obviously that’s not set in stone or anything like that.
“I’m just going to keep playing my rugby and hope I’m good enough to make the cut.”
Kleyn said he felt he had settled well in Ireland and that this was the place that now felt like home, rather than his native South Africa.
“I really love the place. I’ve been living here close to 18 months now and I’ve nothing to complain about. I even think the climate suits me a bit better because I prefer the cold to the hot! I actually do. I get hot really easily so the cold climate really suits me.
“I’ve really bought into the place I think and it’s the people as well. The people are so friendly and welcoming that you sort of have no choice but to feel at home, if that makes sense. I’ve been loving the place and I don’t see myself moving anywhere quickly.
"Home is when I board a plane in South Africa to come here.
“Probably the distance is the worst part of it but to be honest, I don’t miss home terribly or anything like that because I feel really at home here.
“I’ve met some really good friends and sort of found a family of my own here in Munster and I’ve said it before, when I’m going back to South Africa I don’t really feel like I’m going home, I feel like I’m going home when I board the plane in South Africa to come here.
“It’s an odd feeling but it’s the truth.”
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