Hampshire: Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw quit South Africa to sign Kolpak deals

Kyle Abbott
Kyle Abbott took 39 wickets in 11 Tests for South Africa before joining Hampshire on a four-year deal

South Africa pair Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw have quit international cricket to sign Kolpak deals with Hampshire.

Right-arm seamer Abbott, 29, returns to the county he played for as an overseas signing in 2014 on a four-year deal.

Rossouw, 27, can open or bat lower down the order and has joined Hampshire on a three-year deal.

A tearful Abbott announced his international retirement after South Africa's victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka on Thursday.

"It's been one of the hardest decisions I've had to make through my years of playing cricket," he said. "It's the right decision for me.

"I'd like to thank Cricket South Africa, my team-mates, and my family for the ongoing support through this time," he added. "I would really appreciate the public respecting my decision."

After confirming he signed the deal five months ago, he said: "There were a couple of evenings when I went to sleep thinking, 'have I made the right decision?' but I've always woken up the next morning going, 'actually I have'."

Abbott did not take a wicket in the Proteas' 282-run victory over Sri Lanka in Cape Town, which was his 11th Test appearance, alongside 28 One Day International and 21 Twenty20 international caps.

'He spelt my name wrong'

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has terminated Abbott's national contract by mutual agreement with immediate effect, and are following a similar process for Rossouw.

South Africa coach Russell Domingo also revealed Rossouw had only informed CSA of his decision via an email on Wednesday.

"He spelt my name wrong for starters - he put one 'l' instead of two. So that's where we are. I'm very disappointed in him," said Domingo.

"He toured Australia as the back-up Test batsman, he was the next batsman in. He's played in most of the one dayers and a lot of T20s.

"We said this is a guy who can play at the closest level to AB de Villiers in the one-day teams. We invested massively in him and we're very disappointed in his decision."

Rossouw has played 36 ODIs and 15 T20 internationals, the most recent against Zimbabwe in October, but was yet to play a Test.

Rilee Rossouw
Rilee Rossouw hit his third ODI century in victory over Australia in October

Why have they quit international cricket?

Abbott and Rossouw are the latest South African internationals to sign Kolpak deals with English counties in recent months, with Simon Harmer joining Essex,Sussex signing Stiaan van Zyl and Hardus Viljoen moving to Derbyshire.

Explaining his decision, Abbott cited his long-term financial security and uncertainty over his place in the South Africa side since his Test debut in 2013.

"I personally felt over the last four years that I was never far away from being dropped," he said.

"I hope that by showing my commitment over the next four years to Hampshire, I can set up a life after cricket for myself. It's four years of security in a normally very insecure environment."

He denied South Africa's quota system, where the men's team need to field an average of at least six players of colour, including two black Africans, was a factor, adding: "Ever since I've played South African cricket there's always been a quota system or targets - I've never used that as an excuse and I won't use it now."

In a statement Rossouw said: "Deciding to leave South Africa is something I have thought long and hard about and moving to England will give me and my family the long-term career security that I believe is important at this stage of my life."

'A tough decision'

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis expressed his disappointment at Abbott's decision, saying: "I care so much about him and I want him to play well for South Africa.

"I want him to perform on the biggest stage in the world because I feel he's an amazing cricketer and there's no better place to do it than play international cricket.

"We did get together, spoke to Kyle, tried to change his mind, but Kyle's already set up exactly what he wanted to do."

Hampshire director of cricket Giles White, speaking to BBC South Today, said: "We're delighted as Kyle has been with us before and we know a lot about him and he's shown what a fantastic bowler he is on the international stage of late.

"It's obviously been a tough decision for him, he's given it an awful lot of thought. He's a well-considered man and decided that this is the right route to take.

"I think this is a decision individuals make and they weigh-up their options. These two have done that and they've chosen Hampshire as the next phase of their lives and their careers."

James Vince on Twitter
Hampshire captain James Vince welcomed the double signing on Twitter

What is a Kolpak contract?

Kolpak contracts are named after Slovak handball player Marius Kolpak, who won a landmark case at the European Court of Justice in 2003.

It allows sportsmen from countries that have associate trade agreements with the European Union, including South Africa, the same right to free movement as EU citizens without being classed as 'foreigners'.

In cricket, such contracts render the player ineligible to represent their country at international level.

Former Australia one-day captain George Bailey will be Hampshire's overseas player for 2017.

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