DYLAN JACK picks a pack of the best-performing forwards throughout the 2019 World Cup.
8 Duane Vermeulen
The man nicknamed ‘Thor’ unleashed both the lightning and thunder during the tournament. Vermeulen was a pillar of strength for the Boks, making endless carries from kick-offs and supporting Siya Kolisi in the leadership group when needed. At 33 years old, this may be his last World Cup for his country, but he has rightly received a gold medal.
7 Pieter-Steph du Toit
Let’s face it, nobody else could claim this position. Du Toit was named Player of the Year at the World Rugby awards and truly earned it. While he was South Africa’s best player in 2018, he took his game to the next level in 2019, making linebreaks and running unbelievable supporting lines. Du Toit is the epitome of a selfless player and showed it during the World Cup.
6 Tom Curry
I would have loved to put Kolisi here. But as one of England’s outstanding players, Curry deserves some recognition. In his first World Cup at just 21 years old, Curry was fantastic on the openside. He ended the tournament with 57 tackles and a success rate of 89% but was also incredibly active in open play, notching 48 runs and 22 passes and making a total of 98m. His partnership with Sam Underhill was deadly and played a big role in knocking the All Blacks out in the semi-finals.
5 Lood de Jager
The rangy lock came of age during the tournament, playing a big role in the Springboks’ success rate at the set piece. De Jager finished the tournament with a tackle success rate of 95%. It was unfortunate that he went off the field early in the final, but he still showed his worth. At 26 years old, he could still be involved in the next cycle despite a move to England with the Sale Sharks.
4 Maro Itoje
Possibly England’s best player at the World Cup, Itoje was very unlucky to miss out on nomination for Player of the Year. The lock outplayed the All Blacks’ second row in the semi-finals and was one of a few English players to come away from the final with dignity.
3 Kyle Sinckler
Another who was injured in the final, Sinckler lasted just over two minutes before going off with a concussion. To underline Sinckler’s importance, the England scrum crumbled without its fulcrum. He was also incredible in the tight loose and cleverly utilised as a first receiver in the playoffs, finishing with 22 passes and four offloads.
2 Bongi Mbonambi
If there was an award for most-improved player of the year, Mbonambi would get it. The hooker has bettered his strengths and worked on the weak elements of his game to seal a place as the Boks’ first-choice No 2. Immense in the scrum, deadly accurate at the lineout and with a work rate that very few possess, Mbonambi was vital for the Boks this year.
1 Beast Mtawarira
In what could be his final World Cup, Mtawarira collected a few scalps along the way to a gold medal. The Italian props are still recovering from their day against the ‘Beast’, while English tighthead Dan Cole will have nightmares about the final when Mtawarira buckled him to send him backward. While many think this may be Mtawarira’s final appearance in a Springbok jersey, such were his performances that I wouldn’t mind if he was managed up to the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour.
Photo: Steve Haag via HollywoodBets