With 13 days to go until the 2023 Rugby World Cup opener, SARugbymag.co.za looks at the greatest outside centres to wear the green and gold at the tournament.
Currently South Africa’s most-capped outside centre, Jaque Fourie played 72 Test matches in a high-successful 10-year international career.
Fourie evolved from a talented utility back who could also play at wing and centre when he started in 2003 into a midfielder who boasted power and an exceptional rugby brain.
He formed South Africa’s current most-capped centre pairing with Jean de Villiers and helped the Springboks win a World Cup, two Tri-Nations titles and a British & Irish Lions series.
Lukhanyo Am was just 15 Tests into his international career when he produced one of the most unselfish plays to set up South Africa’s first-ever try in a World Cup final.
For a player who only started playing for the Springboks in earnest in 2018, Am has already packed so much experience into his career, winning a World Cup and Rugby Championship double in 2019 and ultimately proving his class with and without the ball in the successful Lions series in 2021. His combination with Damian de Allende is just one Test short of equalling the record held by Fourie and De Villiers.
Mulder’s international career spanned from 1994 to 2001 during which he won 34 Tests and scored six tries.
By 1995, he had established himself as South Africa’s first choice outside centre and formed a reliable midfield combination with Hennie le Roux. Mulder was the battering ram of the two who softened up opposing backlines with his powerful straight running.
Mulder solidified his reputation as a hard-hitting defender in the final of the 1995 World Cup when he single-handedly smashed the unstoppable giant All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu into touch. That bone-crushing hit would be the defining moment of Mulder’s career.
Perhaps one of South Africa’s most underappreciated talents, Jesse Kriel will have represented his country in three World Cups when he runs out in France. Also able to play at wing and fullback, Kriel has spent most of his international career at outside centre and is closing in on Fourie’s caps record.
Kriel has spent much of his time with the Springboks in midfield with De Allende and the two currently rank third for the most-capped South African centre combination. Injury robbed Kriel of playing a greater part in the 2019 World Cup triumph, but 2023 could be the making of the 29-year-old.
A late bloomer at Test level, Jacobs made his debut for South Africa as a 21-year-old in 2001, but only came into his own as an outside centre under Peter de Villiers in 2008. Forming a solid combination with De Villiers, the man from Kraaifontein helped the Springboks claim a historic win over the All Blacks in Dunedin in 2008 and started in two Tests against the British & Irish Lions in 2009.
During his short-lived run as the starting outside centre, the Springboks won 10 out of 13 Test matches.
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