Super Rugby at 25: Our all-time SA XV

As Vodacom Super Rugby celebrates turning 25, SA Rugby magazine picks the all-time South African XV from the competition’s history.

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1. Gurthro Steenkamp (Vodacom Bulls)

Arguably the biggest talking point in this side, the Paarl-born loosehead is safely retired from the demands of the front row with a remarkable CV that includes a SA Player of the Year accolade, a World Cup winner’s medal and three Super Rugby titles. Part and parcel of the dominant Bulls pack that laid the foundation for so many victories, Steenkamp often overcame injuries with the same power and physicality he took to the gainline.
Alternative: Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks)

2. Malcolm Marx (Lions)

He may be only 25-years-old but few have made such a significant impact for their franchise. The all-action hooker was pivotal in the Lions making it to three consecutive finals as he used the elite competition to play his way into the national team.
Alternative: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks)

3. Jannie Du Plessis (Sharks)

Du Plessis played 119 games for the Sharks between 2008 and 2015. Always physical and a confrontational figure up front, he was one of the rare modern players who combined excellent work-rate with technical precision at scrum time.
Alternative: Cobus Visagie (Stormers)

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4. Bakkies Botha (Bulls)

His combination with Victor Matfield for franchise and country remains legendary. Botha, the enforcer, deserves his place for his own body of work. Yes, he may have crossed the line on a few occasions but he put all of his 2.02m frame into every ruck and maul he attended. Often picked by contributors in this magazine’s Perfect XV feature, you won’t find many who wanted to play against him.
Alternative: Flip van der Merwe (Bulls)

5. Victor Matfield (Bulls)

The decorated leader of the Bulls, there isn’t an achievement he did not unlock during his glittering career. The sight of Matfield at the top of a lineout jump with ball in hand – be it on his own throw or not – became an iconic image in Super Rugby. As did his black locks, freed from his scrumcap, when lifting the trophy on three occasions. Few on this list would go straight into an overall anniversary XV but there’s no debate when it comes to Matfield.
Alternative: Andries Bekker (Stormers)

6. Schalk Burger (Stormers)

Another true standout from a local perspective, Burger made an impression on almost every occasion he laced up his boots. From the young tearaway with the long blond hair to the man who never backed down from an altercation, injury or near-death experience. A stalwart of the Stormers, Burger added to his wide array of skills with his ability to play across the backrow.
Alternative: Heinrich Brussouw (Cheetahs)

7. Danie Rossouw (Bulls)

The hulking backrower never quite showed his brilliance in the green and gold but in the light blue of the Bulls, he never looked anything short of a world-beater. Like Burger, he was able to fill in a number of places, even lock at times. A strong ball carrier and a colossal figure on defence, Rossouw was another star who helped turn Loftus Versfeld into the most hostile of places for visiting teams.
Alternative: Juan Smith (Cheetahs)

8. Pierre Spies (Bulls)

Like his teammate Rossouw, Spies never quite managed to nail down a regular place in the Bok XV but back home in Pretoria that was no issue. Spies turned defence into attack and ran like a back – don’t forget he even featured on the wing for the Boks – which dispelled the myth that the golden years of the Bulls was all about kicking for territory and mauling towards the tryline.
Alternative: Warren Whiteley (Lions)

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9. Fourie du Preez (Bulls)

One of the greatest scrumhalves in world rugby, Du Preez had no peer in the local game and ran amok at the base of the powerful Bulls ruck. Three Super Rugby titles and two Player of the Year awards was just reward for years of excellent service. It’s no surprise then, as the Bulls struggle to return to their lofty heights, that the name of the country’s most complete No 9 remains embedded in Loftus folklore.
Alternative: Ruan Pienaar (Sharks)

10. Morne Steyn (Bulls)

The most prolific boot in South Africa, Steyn returned for a swansong season in 2020. His legacy, though, has already been well established through years of dedicated service. The pack before him and the exquisite service from Du Preez allowed Steyn the freedom of any pitch. Back off and he would take the ball to the line. Give him space and he would kick in behind you. The Bulls’ years of success had Steyn’s lethal kicking boot indelibly impressed on them and his name litters the competition’s record books.
Alternative: Elton Jantjies (Lions)

11. Bryan Habana (Bulls/Stormers)

Another world-class performer, and one of the few to move franchises and still be adored by both sets. Only Sharks fans have serious gripes but that is more to do with the try that stopped time … Habana winning the 2007 Super Rugby title for the Bulls with the last play of the game by carving out a route to the tryline that never existed. Solid in defence, Habana was rightly regarded as one of the best finishers to have played in South Africa.
Alternative: Cheslin Kolbe (Stormers)

12. Jean de Villiers (Stormers)

While the Stormers have never won a Super title, no one gave more or bled more for their cause. De Villiers was a pivotal figure in a backline that was never shy of expressing themselves and mixing it with the most attacking outfits in the competition. A player often forced to battle his way back from injury, he still amassed over 100 caps in a Stormers career that lasted nearly a decade before his second move abroad in 2015.
Alternative: Wynand Olivier (Bulls)

13. Jaque Fourie (Lions/Stormers)

The dynamic running centre debuted at his home franchise the Lions in 2003 and racked up 68 appearances before inking his blockbuster move to Cape Town. Fourie only played for the Stormers for only two seasons but in his first, he was instrumental in the reshaping of the side’s defensive line. It never took anything away from his attacking mindset as the Stormers played their way to the final. The following season, he linked up with De Villiers in another iconic partnership in the local context. Neither were able to help the Cape side overcome the Crusaders at Newlands in the semi-finals that year, though.
Alternative: Juan de Jongh (Stormers)

14. JP Pietersen (Sharks)

Another player who defied the strains of the modern game to earn 137 Super Rugby caps – he made his debut in the competition 14 years ago – before his return to the country last year after his time overseas with Leicester Tigers and Toulon. Few could match Pietersen for his positioning on either defence or attack while he remains one of the most potent wings with pace backing up his eye for the tryline. He ended the 2007 season as the top scorer in Super Rugby that season.
Alternative: Stefan Terblanche (Sharks)

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15. Gio Aplon (Stormers)

Potentially, the most divisive selection but strictly in terms of Super Rugby performances, Aplon shades it. The country has produced a number of quality 15s – although many of them fell short when given the chance to don the green and gold. Aplon was often overlooked due to his size but was as effective as anyone at the back when it comes to his all-round attributes. Few could match him with ball in hand and he stepped and weaved his way through defences. A key player in the Stormers side that went close at the turn of the decade.
Alternative: Percy Montgomery (Stormers/Sharks)

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