Os du Randt won two World Cups but it was only in the final season of his 80-Test career that he encountered an opponent who frightened him.
Du Randt’s tale of horror was shared by Springbok teammate Schalk Burger, who regaled the fear instilled by Samoan juggernaut Henry Tuilagi when the teams met in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Burger was one of the toughest players on the planet, and held nothing back between the white lines, but the 86-Test-cap loose forward says powerful No 8 Tuilagi “was probably the most scary thing I have ever seen on a rugby field”.
On the latest episode of RugbyPass ‘Offload’, the Bok World Cup winner recounted the 2007 pool clash with Samoa. “I remember Jaque Fourie and Victor Matfield coming to me and saying, ‘Listen here, there is this bloke Henry Tuilagi, he is absolutely massive. I have just seen him, he weighs like 130kg, he’s 6-foot-2 but he is the biggest thing I have ever seen’,” Burger said.
“So, me and Victor, we’re standing up [in the tunnel]. At World Cups, you line up and then walk out together. The South Africans lined up one to 23, so Victor looks back at me and says, ‘Nah, he is not that big’. For some reason, the Samoan line was a bit quicker than we were walking and it was the tiny little brother Alesana Tuilagi walking out [alongside us].
“All I could see was Victor just panicking. He was looking back and going, ‘Oh, this isn’t the No 8’. Then it’s probably 10 or 15 minutes into this game, it’s halfway and it’s a shortened lineout, five-man, and I was standing at the back, Danie Rossouw and me. We used to defend like up and in a fair bit.
“We lined up all right, but this was ridiculous because I looked to the right and Butch James was almost on the 15 on the opposite side of the field and he looked at me and said, ‘That’s not mine. There is absolutely no chance’.
“It’s the first time everyone had seen Henry Tuilagi standing midway between the 22 and the tryline and he was the lineout trigger, so when he got to full pace just on the other side of the 22, the ball came and the next moment there was a gap for him to run through.
“I hoped to God that he was running past Butch but he just sort of looked at me and was coming straight at me. So, I actually put a decent shot in from the side but as I swung around I was now basically riding on his back like a bull. He is carrying me and I can see Danie Rossouw sitting down on the bottom. He is a huge man, 124kg, and I was on the back of Henry going over Danie riding off the back of him. It was just amazing.
“I remember having a few beers afterwards, all of us sitting there and Os du Randt was on brandy. He was like, ‘This is the last bit of my career, I’m just going to retire after the World Cup. Never in my life have I been honest enough to say to a coach that I was scared, but if someone asked me after 20 minutes today if I am scared, I would have said yes’.”
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