All Blacks loose forward Liam Messam has described the Springboks as nice guys off the field but physically intimidating on the pitch.
Messam, who currently plays for Toulon, made over 150 appearances for the Chiefs in Super Rugby. He also won 43 caps for the All Blacks, making 10 appearances against the Springboks, winning eight of those encounters.
Writing in his column for The XV, the 36-year-old opened up on his experience of playing against South African teams, using an encounter with lock RG Snyman as an example of their brutal physicality.
‘The South Africans, though, I don’t know what it is but there’s something about them. They’re all great guys off the pitch but when you’re on the field, they want to hurt you.
‘A few years ago, RG Snyman managed to break my nose and finger at the same time. We’d had a bit of a scuffle off the ball and a few phases later I was lining up for a carry. He was a few men inside me, so I could only really see him out of the corner of my eye but he saw me and just bee-lined straight towards me.
‘I was like, “Nah, surely not – he’s not going to go that far out of his way to hit me?” But he absolutely did – he came on the angle at me, and I tried to put a shoulder on him but it didn’t stop him at all. He absolutely smashed me, busted my nose and my finger. Moments like that stick with you and I’ll always have one eye on him whenever we play.
‘Physically, you always want to test where you are as a player and where you are as a team by playing the South Africans. That’s their style and that’s what won them the World Cup. You know you’re going to come up against some big units and they don’t exactly hide what their gameplan is going to be – they’re going to maul, they’re going to run it straight, they’re going to smash you.’
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