With all the problems and other sh*t, currently overshadowing South African rugby, we can’t help to feel a bit nostalgic, longing for the past…better days, when the Springbok was still feared and respected. Thus, we thought it appropriate to take a tour through the annuals of South African rugby looking back at the glory days and compiling a list of the greatest Springbok players to ever take to the field – a South African rugby dream team, which follows below.
Before continuing, keep in mind all player selected were evaluated and considered when they were in their prime.
Best Ever Springbok XV
Fullback: Percy Montgomery
No doubt this will be seen as a controversial selection, sure the great Andre Joubert makes a strong claim for the dream team, but consider this. Percy has played 102 matches for South Africa, scoring 893-points in the process (that averages almost 9-points a match!)
While inconsistent at the start of his career, Percy took a break from international rugby towards the middle of his career and re-invented himself in Europe, upon return Percy was a transformed player.
While the young Montgomery was inconsistent and poor, the mature Percy was the exact opposite reliable and extremely accurate from the kicking tee. Montgomery also played a pivotal part in the South African 2007 world cup win, the above warrants a selection for us in a Bok’ dream team.
Winger: Bryan Habana
Another controversial selection, however, you have to give credit where credit is due, Bryan Habana can be compared with some of the BIGGEST names of international rugby, and his resume serves as proof, which includes the following:
- 115 Springbok caps, the second most capped player after Victor Matfield (127)
- South African player with the most number of tries (64) almost double the amount of second placed Joost van der Westhuizen (38). Habana averages (0.5+ tries) which is immensely impressive for a player with 115 caps behind his name.
- Equals the World Cup record, for most number of tries during a tournament, with the great Jonah Lomu (15)
Except for the above on his day Habana was considered the fastest player in World Rugby, remember when he raced a Cheetah? As Habana aged he lost his pace however, he compensated by continuously working hard and improving his all-round performance.
Outside Centre: Jacques Fourie
Jacques Fourie, in his prime, was considered the best centre in world rugby! Smart and evasive Jacques played most of his rugby at outside centre and that is where he was at his best, although he has also slotted in at wing in a handful of matches.
Consider the following statistics which emphasis just how great Jacque Fourie was, Fourie scored a whopping 32-tries for South Africa in 72-matches with a combined total of 160-points for the Springboks. The latter offcourse excludes try assists which Fourie was notorious for!
Inside Centre: Frans Steyn
Perhaps the legend that never was, when considering Frans Steyn’s career one can’t help but to feel sorry for Steyn, sure he might be considered cocky and arrogant, but won’t you be after winning a World Cup at only 20-years old and having a bank balance bigger than your gut?
Steyn burst onto the international scene at only 19-years of age, he got one opportunity and seized it with both hands, remember those massive match winning drop goals against Australia in 2006?
Steyn was / is pure talent, and we will argue that his versatility and talent was perhaps the downfall of Steyn, instead of nurturing a young Frans Steyn’s talent, South African coaches shuffled Steyn between flyhalf, fullback, inside / outside centre, something which obviously hinders a young player’s development – and as a result Steyn never really lived up to his full potential. We will go out on a limb, and say, had Steyn been properly managed he would have been gone on to become one of the greatest.
With that being said, for the handful of years Steyn was in his prime he was superb, it is at inside centre where we believe Steyn is at his best. Steyn is an all-round lethal weapon, having a massive boot, a phenomenal long distance place kicker, rock solid on defence and strong on his feet, he has all the qualities of a dream team springbok centre.
Winger: Pieter Rossouw
This was a tough selection, to be honest, there was not a significant pool of players to choose from here since…well South Africa simply does not have a history of legendary wingers.
With that being said, “slaptjips” as Rossouw was referred to was a quality wing on his day. Described by many including, Nick Mallet, as one of the greatest rugby minds of all time, Rossouw was both fast, and intelligent on the wing.
Flyhalf: Henry Honiball
Aaah the all-important flyhalf position which have plagued South African rugby for years, a position where South African rugby has struggled to build continuity or find a player who has all the qualities required for a world class flyhalf.
There is however, one player who comes to mind when considering the above, Henry Honiball. Honiball was an uncharacteristic flyhalf, someone who South African rugby can only wish they could select today.
Your weakest defensive position, the 10-channel, just became one of your strongest, Honiball was a phenomenal defender!
Uncharacteristically strong, big and physical for a flyhalf Honiball was renowned for not only his defence but also his darting runs and ability for breaking open defensive lines which earned him the nick name “lem”, cutting through defence like a blade.
The one weakness Honiball did have in his game was his goal kicking, but then again in our Springbok dream team, we have both Percy Montgomery and Frans Steyn to fill in from the kicking tee.
Scrumhalf: Joost van der Westhuizen
While it is cruel to leave Fourie Du Preez out of our best XV, we do believe van der Westhuizen edges it, ever so slightly.
In his prime Joost was phenomenal, a great passing game, strong on defence, uncharacteristically so for a scrumhalf, remember when he took down the supposedly unstoppable Jonah Lomu by himself, in the 95 World Cup?
Except for the above Joost was a SMART player, when a question was asked to legendary All-Black scrumhalf Justin Marcell who his toughest opponent was, he replied “Joost van der Westhuizen.”
Joost was feared by opposition teams, so much so, that the great Sir Clive Woodward even adjusted his game plan for Joost, during England vs South Africa’s 2003 World Cup fixture.
Joost was phenomenal around the fringes, to further emphasise his greatness for a long time Joost held the record for most Springbok tries with 38 tries in 89-matches, an extraordinary high amount for a scrumhalf.
Number 8: Gary Teichmann
Teichmann was both a phenomenal player and inspirational captain. Playing a pivotal role during Nick Mallet’s successful tenure as Springbok coach, Teichmann had all the qualities of a world class number 8, not least of which was Teichmann’s incredible ability to anticipate and “read” the game.
Flanker: Andre Venter
Andre Venter was a man of steel, strong on his feet, and brutal on defence, Venter was feared by many opponents simply because of the way he played the game.
However, it is not only defence and bulldozing runs Venter brought to the South African team, he was equally good at the breakdown, and was not afraid to put in the proverbial, “hard yards”, or do the dirty work, when required.
Flanker: Schalk Burger
Selecting the loose forward combination for our best ever Springbok 15 was not easy, if only South African rugby could produce as many quality flyhalf’s like they do loose forwards!
Burger had, to compete with many to make the cut for our dream team, however, considering Burger is one of World Rugby’s most decorated players you can ill afford to leave him out of a dream team. Among many of Schalk’s accolades, some of the most impressive include the following:
- IRB player of the year in 2004
- South African rugby player of the year twice (04, 11)
- Laureus World Sport Award (come-back player of the year 2014), topping other major international athletes for the award!
- World Cup winner 2007
Remembering Burger in his prime, rather than modern day Schalk is how you should view this selection. In his prime Burger was right up there with the best in the business, renowned for his high work rate, and physical style of play, Burger contributed enormously to South Africa’s successful tenure under Jake White.
Lock 5: Victor Matfield
When considering the primary role of a lock is to dominate in the lineout, little needs to be said about the selection of South Africa’s most capped player, who is considered the best lineout specialist to have ever played the game.
Lock 4: Bakkies Botha
You can’t have Victor without Bakkies, for years Botha and Matfield made for the best lock combination in World Rugby.
Botha, commonly referred to as “the enforcer”, is perhaps one of the most physical players to ever take to a rugby field, exactly what we want from our 4-lock.
Tighthead Prop: CJ Van Der Linde
Another difficult selection, with arguably a more traditional selection being appropriate, however, when considering CJ, in his prime, weighed in at an enormous 130kg combined with the fact that CJ Van Der Linde had a brilliant scrummaging technique, we do belief Van Der Linde is one of the best Tighthead props to come out of the republic.
Hooker: Bismarck du Plessis
Yet another difficult selection, again it is important to remember Bismarck in his prime, who at the time was rated the best hooker in world rugby. Bismarck was dynamic on the field, immensely physical, a (very) strong ball carrier and excellent at the breakdown Bismarck effectively made for an additional flanker on the field.
Loosehead Prop: Os DuRandt
Little needs to be said about the gentle giant who is the only player who can boast with both a 95 and 07 world cup medal. However, it is not only the decorations which gets Os selected, Du Randt was an excellent scrummager, having both physicality and excellent technique, Os rarely took a step back.
Do you agree with our selection, did we miss someone or would you rather have included someone else? As always drop us a comment below and let us know your thoughts!