In the latest addition to our new series, MARIETTE ADAMS identifies loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg as one of the most underrated Springboks.
In this new content series, we look back at the career of Wannenburg, who earned just 20 Test caps for the Springboks, despite being an integral part of that dominant Vodacom Bulls set-up that won three Super Rugby titles and five Currie Cups between 2001 and 2010.
It can be argued that Wanneburg deserved a few more international appearances, but unfortunately for him he played in an era when places in both the Springbok loose trio and second row were contested by players who would go on to become some of the best ever in those positions.
Nonetheless, he was just 21 years old when he made his Test debut in a 30-10 loss to France in 2002.
A bruising, versatile forward, he started in 12 of his 20 Tests and scored three tries including a match-defining one in the Boks’ 21-20 win over the All Blacks in the 2006 Tri-Nations. Yet, despite his ability to deputise in the second row, he was only ever utilised as a loose forward by the Boks.
In 2007, Wannenburg made the cut for South Africa’s Tri-Nations squad, but narrowly missed out on selection in the victorious World Cup squad with then coach Jake White instead opting for Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Wikus van Heerden, Danie Rossouw and Bobby Skinstad as his loose-forward contingent for the showpiece.
Despite his performances for the Bulls in the following three years (2008-10), his Test career, for all intents and purposes, ended after he became embroiled in a drugs scandal. He decided he needed a change of scenery to help overcome his recreational drugs and alcohol abuse and resurrect his career.
Wannenburg went on to have a successful two-year stay with Ulster in Ireland before stints with Castres and Oyonnax in France. He played one last season of rugby, for the Austin Elite in the inaugural season of Major League Rugby, before confirming his retirement in 2018.
Yet, for all his club and provincial achievements, one can’t help but feel not just a sense of under-appreciation but also of unfulfilled potential at the highest level.
Photo: Gallo Images