Heinrich Brussow says the game has moved on from having one specialist fetcher and that is what makes the Springboks so dangerous at the breakdown.
Brussow was speaking to Netwerk24 about how the breakdown battle and makeup of the back row has changed since he last played Test rugby.
The former Springbok flank made his name as a specialist opensider, tasked with poaching the ball from the opposition breakdown. He did this to brilliant effect when he replaced the injured Schalk Burger during the latter two Tests of the 2009 British & Irish Lions series and famously put in three man-of-the-match performances against New Zealand between 2009 and 2011.
While the current Springbok team does not have a specialised No 6 in Brussow’s mould, the team has still excelled at the breakdown. Bok coach Jacques Nienaber noted during the November Tests in the UK that he has never coached a team with so many poachers. The likes of Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen and Makazole Mapimpi all managed to win at least one turnover during the tour.
“The game moved on from one specialised ball hunter. Many teams still prefer it that way, but with the Boks the whole team’s involvement makes it so effective, ” Brussow told Netwerk24.
“There are a lot of guys who can not only steal balls, but can make balls slow. They are everywhere on the field. One openside flank may not be everywhere, especially with the game becoming so fast – the pace at which they are now playing compared to 10 years ago is ridiculous.
“From the props, Trevor, Kitsie, Malcolm, can steal balls, then you have Kwagga, Duane – you can go through the team – the scrumhalf, even Cobus [Reinach] can sometimes compete on the ground, Handre [Pollard] can stealing balls, Damian is incredibly good, Am is good.
“They focused hard on teaching everyone the additional skill of stealing balls. If everyone can do it, it’s a hefty asset.”