Most underrated Boks: Brussow the Brilliant

In the first part of a new series, CRAIG LEWIS identifies fetcher extraordinaire Heinrich Brussow as one of the most underrated Springboks.

This period of lockdown has provided plenty of time to reflect on the ‘good old days’.

In this new content series, we look back at the career of Brussow, who earned just 23 caps for the Springboks, but surely has to be regarded as one of the most dynamic players to have ever donned the green and gold.

Weighing in it at only around 100kg, Brussow was underestimated by many during an era where big, bruising loose forwards were more often favoured by South African coaches.

Yet, Brussow – the dimunitive but hard-as-nails openside flank – was in a league of his own, with his ability to effect turnovers at the breakdown putting him in the class of a rare breed of world-class fetchers.

Some of his best work was reserved for the famous British & Irish Lions series and Tri-Nations victories in 2009, while he notably never lost in any of his five Test starts against the All Blacks.

At just 23 years old in 2009, he deservedly earned the SA Rugby Young Player of the Year award, and at that point looked destined for a long and illustrious Test career.

And although Brussow would play every match for the Springboks at the 2011 World Cup, his career was blighted by injuries, while at times he fell out of favour with coaches who didn’t see a place for his style of play.

After eight seasons playing in Bloemfontein with the Cheetahs, Brussow then spent five years in Japan, before moving to the Northampton Saints.

Unfortunately, he suffered a number of consecutive injuries after moving to the Premiership side and was ultimately forced to announce his ‘immediate retirement’ towards the end of 2019.

Nevertheless, Springbok No 801 will undoubtedly be remembered as a very ‘special one’.

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