The Derek Alberts Column: My final Bok dream team picks
Only five spots remain in my Springbok World Cup Dream Team, a side made up of players who I believe were the best in their position in tournaments passed.
A recap of the side so far:
- Percy Montgomery
- JP Pietersen
- Japie Mulder
- Frans Steyn
- Bryan Habana
- Joel Stransky
- Joost van der Westhuizen
- Os du Randt
- John Smit
- Balie Swart
Now to finish things off with the second row and loose-trio.
- Bakkies Botha
The enforcer. Granted, Bakkies likes to teeter on the edge of what many might consider to be construed as dirty play, and on more than one occasion he's overstepped the mark, but there's no denying that teams would rather play with him than against him. A veteran of three World Cups, Botha played in 14 matches, started 13 of those, and scored three tries along the way. Not that tries are the measure of a second-rower, but he'll happily claim them. He also adds considerable bulk to the scrum and is a Trojan in the lineouts.
I haven't considered combinations in my selections, but it's impossible to overlook the fact that Botha operates best alongside the man that I've selected at number 5, a friendship that Botha once said about: "Sometimes I feel we know each other better than we know our wives."
- Victor Matfield
That man, of course, is Victor Matfield. The most capped Springbok in history played in three World Cups, retired immediately after the 2011 event in New Zealand, made an audacious comeback three years later, and is about to partake in his fourth tournament. While not as aggressive or as intimidating as Botha, what Matfield lacks in mongrel, he more than makes up for in tactical nous, and is arguably the greatest lineout jumper the game has ever seen. He was named man of the match in South Africa's 15-6 victory over England in the 2007 final, and is constantly rated by his peers as the most complete number 5.
- Schalk Burger
Through some quirk of sorts, South Africa has always done things differently when it comes to numbering their flankers. While most countries hand their openside the number 7 jersey, the Boks have theirs at number 6, with the blindside taking over at 7. Schalk Burger has played in three World Cups, but only wore the number 6 on his back in 2007. Too be honest, Burger was outshone by his fellow flanker Juan Smith at the tournament, but given who I have operating at 7 in this team, Smith unfortunately had to miss out.
That's not to say Burger was poor. Anything but. The former IRB player of the year lived up to his reputation as a hard uncompromising player in France when he was cited for a dangerous tackle in the Boks' opening match against Samoa. It looked fairly innocuous, but the IRB inexplicably handed out a four-match ban to the player. The Boks were having none of it, and Jake White and Saru had no hesitation in appealing the decision, such was Burger's value to the team. Businessman Johan Rupert even got in on the act, flying over his top advocates to ensure that Burger was well represented at the hearing. It worked, as Burger's ban was reduced to just two matches, and South Africa drew a collective sigh of relief. The rest was history.
- Ruben Kruger
In terms of the greatest ever year in Springbok history, it would be hard to top 1995. The Boks won the World Cup; never lost one of the ten Tests they played; and defeated powerhouses Australia, France, New Zealand and England along the way. After such an exceptional year, whoever stood out as player of the year among such an outstanding group of individuals must have been someone truly special. Ruben Kruger was that player, and he was special.
Kitch Christie nicknamed him 'The Silent Assassin' and the moniker could not have been more apt. He was a man of few words, went about his task with ruthless efficiency, and was easily one of the strongest men to have ever set foot on a rugby field. Kruger scored the Boks' only try in their 1995 semi-final win over France, and always maintained that he did the same in the final against the All Blacks, irrespective of the fact that referee Ed Morrison believed he had been held up. Quiet and reserved he may have been, but Kruger was the most animated when Morrison blew the final whistle to signal that the Boks had won the World Cup. See for yourself.
Kruger played two matches at the 1999 World Cup, and finished the tournament in the same manner in which he ended the previous one, by beating the All Blacks.
He was forced to quit the game a year later when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, a disease that ultimately claimed his life.
Kruger passed away in January 2010 at the age of 39. The Silent Assassin forever silenced.
- Danie Rossouw
A very tough decision this given the fact that both Bok sides that won the World Cup did so with a converted lock at the back of the scrum. Mark Andrews didn't disgrace himself by any means, but the legendary second-rower admits that the experience of playing eighth man in the 1995 semi and final wasn't an enjoyable one. Danie Rossouw fared far better in 2007. Having operated mostly at flank and lock for the Boks, Rossouw was thrust into the eighth man position ahead of the tournament as a replacement for the injured Pierre Spies. Rossouw was rock solid in France, and even pulled off the try-saving tackle on Mark Cueto in the final against England. He wasn't flashy, but he did the basics very, very well. He played a total of 15 matches across three World Cups, and scored six tries in the process.
That wraps up my side. Let's hope that once this World Cup has wrapped up, I'll be able to add a plethora of new names to the mix.
What would your dream team look like? Let me know on Twitter @derekalberts1
Derek Alberts is a sports anchor at Eyewitness News.