In the third instalment of a seven-part series, SA Rugby magazine’s writers pick their best World XV of the past 25 years.
JON CARDINELLI: Dan Carter currently leads the all-time point-scorers list with a haul of 1,598. His excellent goal-kicking warrants inclusion, yet he will be better remembered for his contributions in other areas.
Carter began his international career at No 12 before shifting to 10. His ability to break the line – and score – is illustrated by his individual try tally of 29. While Stephen Larkham and Jonny Wilkinson were in Carter’s class as a distributor and line-kicker, the Australian and the Englishman didn’t boast the same individual running game. As the quintessential all-round threat, Carter kept defences guessing.
The Springboks were always a more dangerous prospect with Fourie du Preez controlling proceedings from the No 9 position. The South African possessed the full range of skills, although it was his vision and accuracy – particularly with the box-kicking boot – that set him apart from his peers.
CRAIG LEWIS: This is one of those selections where I suspected the SA Rugby magazine team would all be unanimous, but I see Mariette and Wade have gone rogue and picked George Gregan at scrumhalf.
Fair enough, he was a legend in his own right, but there’s no way I’m not selecting Fourie du Preez. With 76 Tests and a litany of personal and team achievements to his name, it speaks volumes about Du Preez’s class that South African rugby has desperately sought a successor with little joy ever since he played his last Test over four years ago.
At flyhalf, we can all agree there is no other possibility but to select Dan Carter. I recently watched his documentary A Perfect 10 and it served as a timely reminder of just what a peerless flyhalf the New Zealander was during his heyday. The fact that this phase lasted for the better part of a decade just says it all.
WADE PRETORIUS: From the beginning of this exercise, I was going with a World XV minus Springboks, so George Gregan gets the nod. When you build your reputation as the player that every side in world rugby loves to hate, then you know you are good. He backed up his typically abrasive No 9 behaviour with a decade and more at the top. A stalwart of the Australian side and a player who mastered the dark arts alongside the traditional skills required at the base of the maul. His vision and decision-making around the fringes often proved the difference and he is the perfect scrumhalf to partner Dan Carter in this World XV.
Carter will go down as an All Blacks great and quite simply one of the best to ever play the game regardless of era or position. One of a kind and blessed with the complete package, it must be written that it was a privilege to witness him in full flight even if it often came at the expense of our beloved Boks.
MARIETTE ADAMS: There’s been no better flyhalf than Dan Carter. A lot of people argue that there’s very little to choose between Carter and Jonny Wilkinson, but I beg to differ.
With two World Cup-winners medals, nine Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship titles, a series win over the British & Irish Lions, three Vodacom Super Rugby championships, two French Top 14 title victories and a Japanese Top League crown to his name, Carter is the most decorated player in rugby.
He’s also the leading point-scorer in international rugby, having accumulated 1,598 in just 112 appearances.
As a player, he was near faultless. Strong in defence and attack, he could also break the line and was renowned for the quality of his kicking both tactically and at goal – and with both feet.
Selecting a scrumhalf was a little more difficult. But I’m going to go ahead to say George Gregan was the ultimate No 9. He was not universally loved, not even in his own country, because of his perceived aloof and at times disdainful demeanour. But throughout his 14-year Test career, Gregan was the heartbeat of the Wallabies.
An all-round master tactician who paraded as rugby magician with a full bag of tricks and bravado.
From a crisp pass to a brutally effective kicking game; from a delayed feed into the scrum to a fast run at the defensive line; from knowing when to distribute the ball to when to cunningly snipe around the fringe; from masterfully controlling the tempo of a match to manipulating referees. In between all that, he boasted the uncanny ability to wind the opposition up with his constant sledging.
Gregan had everything and that made him the ultimate thorn in opposing teams’ flesh.
DYLAN JACK: This is a far easier pick than any of the other backline positions.
As my colleagues have stated, Dan Carter was the full package as a flyhalf. His achievements (listed above) tell their own story as he is one of the most successful players in rugby history.
Scrumhalf is slightly more debatable, but I am going to stick with Fourie du Preez. The Springboks were a different animal when he played and it was his kicking game in particular that set him apart from other players. He remains one of the smartest players to have come through South African rugby.
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