In the latest addition to our new series, MARIETTE ADAMS identifies lock Andries Bekker as one of the most underrated Springboks.
In this new content series, we look back at the career of Bekker, a 2.08m giant who still comfortably holds the record as the tallest-ever Bok player.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Hennie Bekker, Bekker Jnr forced his way into the Springbok squad in 2008 with consistent brilliance in Super Rugby for the Stormers. But, ultimately, Bekker had an on-and-off relationship with the green-and-gold jersey since earning the first of his 29 Test caps against Wales in Bloemfontein on 7 June 2008.
A towering presence in the lineouts and a mongrel in the loose, who boasted surprising speed for such a big man and with an exemplary work rate, Bekker’s distinctive features set him on a path to become one of the greatest locks of all time.
Unfortunately for him, his career deviated from its projected path due to a number of reasons.
Firstly, Bekker’s emergence at the top and the early stages of his Bok career coincided with the peak of Victor Matfield’s, resulting in the former continuously playing second fiddle to the latter; one could even go as far as saying he lived in his shadow.
Secondly, for all his star power, Bekker was injury plagued. He was so ravaged by injuries he could feature in only three Tests across the 2010 and 2011 international seasons, which undoubtedly contributed to delay his development in a time when he was set to push Matfield in the Bok pecking order.
Lastly, when he worked his way back into the Bok fold in 2012, so too did young Eben Etzebeth – his Stormers teammate and apprentice.
Bekker, who started just 11 of his 29 Test appearances, never made it to a World Cup, but he did play as a substitute twice during the Boks’ enthralling 2-1 series win over the British & Irish Lions in 2009.
After missing out on selection for the 2011 World Cup, Bekker was selected for the first-ever Rugby Championship in 2012. Soon after the completion of the competition, it was announced that he is set to depart the South African rugby landscape in favour of a move to Japan, where he signed for the Kobe Kobelco Steelers.
Bekker reached legendary status for the Steelers in the Japanese Top League over the course of five years, before announcing his retirement in 2018.
Bekker may not have scaled the heights many expected, especially on the international front, and while he may not be viewed as a great of the game, he should be remembered as a generational talent, even if that talent was unfulfilled.
Photo: Getty Images