We asked our readers to pick the Springboks they felt boasted the most X factor or game-breaking ability. CRAIG LEWIS takes a closer look at the names that predominantly popped up.
Absolutely no surprises that the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup superstar was top of mind for most. The dynamic wing undoubtedly epitomises the common term of ‘X-factor’ player.
Impressively, he’s maintained scintillating form since the World Cup, with the Toulouse utility back widely regarded as the most dangerous player in the Top 14 and world rugby.
The Springbok icon was a very popular selection among our readers, and for good reason. Gerber, who featured in 24 Tests between 1980 and 1992, was a centre who was undoubtedly ahead of his time.
As the late great Danie Craven once noted: ‘Danie possesses unusual strength, speed and agility and using those skills and attributes he has scored tries other players would sell their soul for; one of the greatest centres ever to represent South Africa.’
Another understandable selection. Having featured in 124 Tests for the Springboks, there is little doubt that Habana stands tall as the greatest wing to have worn the green and gold.
In his prime, there weren’t any players who could match Habana for pace, power and game-changing class. And during an illustrious career, it’s no surprise that there aren’t many trophies he didn’t get to hold aloft.
Fourie du Preez
Although Du Preez probably wouldn’t fall into the X-factor category, he did possess the sort of game-breaking ability that elevated him into the company of some of the greatest scrumhalves to have ever played the game.
There are few superlatives that would suitably summarise his sublime performances at the 2007 World Cup, while over the course of a 76-Test career, he wrote his name into Springbok folklore.
A loose forward who could play like a back, Burger was one of the most popular and influential players during his heyday. Fearless and physical, but also athletic and naturally gifted, Burger was a once-in-a-generation star.
He played for the Springboks for over a decade, and once even had coach Jake White quip that he would love to be able to pick 15 Schalk Burgers if he could.
Joost van der Westhuizen
There’s so much that could be said and written about the late great Van der Westhuizen, but it’s his heroics during the famous 1995 World Cup final that could almost solely earn him selection in this article.
Along with Du Preez, he is undoubtedly the greatest scrumhalf to have donned Springbok colours, with his size and strength setting him apart at a time when the game was still graduating to professionalism.
A legend if ever there was one.
This may seem like somewhat of a left-field selection, but Skinstad certainly boasted the sort of game-breaking ability that very few forwards could match at the time.
A modern-day No 8, who was also ahead of his time, the Zimbabwe-born loose forward scored 11 tries in 42 Tests.
The utility back was probably more popular with fans than coaches, and his 23 Tests (with just seven starts) speaks to that point.
Yet, at the turn of the century, Russell was one of the most entertaining X-factor players to lace up his boots for the Boks, and will always be known as the original ‘pocket rocket’.