The Derek Alberts Column: MY Springbok World Cup Dream Team
Currently a four-letter word with many fans, but for the most part, the team is always well supported, especially come World Cup time. There's no doubt that the Boks will go into the tournament in the United Kingdom terribly out of form, but there's something about the sport's showpiece event that makes them rise to the occasion.
This will be only the Springboks' sixth World Cup, and were they to go on and win the thing, their success rate in lifting aloft the Webb Ellis Cup would rocket to 50%, a pretty outstanding achievement for any team, in any sport, at any event.
South Africa has a great history with the Rugby World Cup, and it's with this in mind that I've put together MY Springbok World Cup Dream Team, based purely on players' performances at previous tournaments. I've emphasised the word 'my' because that's exactly what this is - my team. The selections are not science, but purely opinion. But, feel free to agree or disagree.
There are two rules though.
As stated, the selections are only based on a player's performance at a World Cup, nothing outside of that.
A player can only be selected into a position which he occupied at a previous tournament. It sounds fairly obvious, but one can't move a left wing to right wing purely because the Boks had a surplus of terrific left wings.
For now, I'm starting with numbers 15 to 11.
DEREK'S SPRINGBOK DREAM TEAM
- Percy Montgomery
One of the more difficult decisions to make given that it was a straight shootout between Monty and the 'Rolls-Royce' of fullbacks Andre Joubert. Both men were part of World Cup winning teams, and Joubert famously played with a broken hand in that final win over New Zealand.
However, what tips the scales in Monty's favour is his kicking prowess. The Sacs old boy began his Bok career by replacing Joubert in the number 15 jersey, and while he was an attacking phenom during his early days, by the time 2007 rolled around he had reworked his game to become a rock-solid fullback with a deadly boot. So much so, that he was the 2007 World Cup's leading point scorer with 105 points, courtesy of 22 conversions, 17 penalties and two tries. He edges Joubert, but only just.
- JP Pietersen
As expected, the majority of the side will emanate from the 1995 and 2007 teams, and once again this proved to be a battle between Pietersen and his 1995 counterpart James Small. Pietersen made his mark in France by scoring three tries in his opening two matches, including two in the 36-0 demolition of England at the Stade de France. While he added one more to his tally in the quarterfinal against Fiji, it was his defence in that match which may have invariably won his side the World Cup.
Leading 23-20 with 14 minutes remaining, the Boks were under severe pressure when the big islanders had a three man overlap with the try-line at their mercy. A try was on for all money as Rawaca stormed in for the corner, but Pietersen managed to somehow collect the player mid-dive, wrap his arms beneath the ball while past the chalk, and roll him out into touch. The try would have been Fiji's third in the space of just ten minutes, and may have broken the back of the Boks. Instead, John Smit's men went on to secure a 37-20 victory, thanks in no small part to their right winger.
- Japie Mulder
One of the unsung heroes of the Boks' 1995 team, and while it was extremely hard to choose between him and Jaques Fourie, if JP can make it in on a tackle, then so can Japie.
With 25 minutes left on the clock and the Boks leading 9-6 in the final at Ellis Park, the All Blacks were on the attack. The ball was spun out wide into the hands of Jonah Lomu, who had acres of space in front of him and few defenders, a situation which almost always resulted in a try in earlier matches in the tournament. The winger eased his way past Joubert and looked certain to canter in for the five-pointer, but almost unbelievably, Mulder caught up with him from behind and pulled off THE perfect tackle to force him into touch. Grant Nesbitt, commentating on the game, said at the time "they'll talk about that one for years" and he was spot on.
- Francois Steyn
Steyn played inside centre for the majority of the matches at the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, but at both events, his selection at 12 only came about because of injury to Jean de Villiers. Steyn was thrust into the starting line-up at the tender age of 20 after current captain de Villiers had his 2007 tournament ended in the Boks' opening match against Samoa. It was a case of déjà vu four years later in the first match against Wales as Steyn, who started at fullback, was again called upon to fill the void in the midfield after de Villiers went off injured.
While de Villiers returned for the Boks' quarterfinal loss to Australia, it was only because Steyn was ruled out of the clash after suffering a shoulder injury in the previous game against Samoa, an indication of how valued his position in the team was. The former Grey College star never disappointed at 12, while his two monster penalties in the 2007 final against England will go down in rugby folklore.
- Bryan Habana
One of the easier selections to make. Bryan Habana entered the 2007 World Cup already a superstar, but he truly put his stamp on the tournament in that opening clash against Samoa. John Smit famously described that game as of the toughest he'd ever been involved in, but even so, Habana ran riot, scoring four tries, some of which were scintillating.
He went on to score a further four in the competition to finish as the leading try-scorer, and while he only managed to cross the chalk twice in 2011, his overall tally stands at ten, just five short of Lomu's record of most Rugby World Cup tries.
That's it for this column. To debate the merits of my selections, or to nominate future selections, contact me on Twitter _ @derekalberts1_
Derek Alberts is a sports anchor at Eyewitness News.