Boks’ biggest Super Rugby miss

South Africa is the biggest exporter of rugby talent in the world and one of the many reasons is that no other nation produces the same volume of quality players.

In the professional history of the game, hordes of top-tier players were too deep on the depth chart to get a look in from the Springbok selectors – the AOR team debates which such player was most deserving of a Test cap.

Tank Lanning – Deon Fourie
Well it was going to be an incredibly difficult decision choosing between Oli Kebble, JC Janse van Rensburg and Charles Marais – all of who would have done, and actually would continue to do, the Green and Gold No 1 jersey proud – but then my esteemed co-debater banned me from picking a prop.

“Too clichéd,” he said… What a party pooper!

I took to Twitter for a little advice and my word did some corker suggestions come in! Seabelo Senatla was a late entry that I liked, but with so many good years to come, I have a feeling he will get his chance.

Lappies Labuschagne, Jacques Botha, Doppies la Grange, and Robert Ebersohn are there and there about, while both the late Etienne Botha and Johan Roets would get many people’s votes. The latter two were mercurial for the Bulls, responsible for putting plenty of bums on seats at Loftus.

But the man getting my vote today – an absolute ringer for Eugene Tackleberry from Police Academy – was schooled at Pietersburg High School, got a few caps for the BlitzBoks, played for WP and the Stormers from 2006 to 2014, skippered WP to a Currie Cup trophy in 2012, and now earns a deserved tidy sum at Lyon in France.

Unlucky to overlap with Bok legends Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit, Fourie – at home at both open side and hooker – was incredibly unlucky to never get a look in at the highest level.

With an engine not dissimilar to Richie McCaw, and a built in suit of armour that RoboCop would be proud of, Fourie was not only hugely effective with ball in hand, but an absolute menace at the breakdown.

Zelím Nel – Gavin Lawless
Shout-out to John Daniels. Widely regarded as the fastest man on SA rugby pitches during a career that ran from 1998 to 2008, Daniels was a lethal finisher who signed off with the most tries in Currie Cup history (77).

It’s a standing record that was set when South Africans prided themselves on their ability to tackle, well before the likes of the Cheetahs diluted the domestic scene with no-defence rugby.

But enough about the bloke who, perhaps for the first time in his life, finished second in a race. If the clocks could be turned back, I’d head for 1997 and call up Gavin Lawless instead of Russell Bennett.

At the time I was a Bennett fan, but the fact that his Bok career lasted just two months and six Tests suggests that Lawless might have been the better choice.

And it’s never have been easier for a Bok coach to motivate capping a rookie than it would have been with Lawless in 1997. Having ended his first pro season as the Lions leading points-scorer in the Super 12 and Currie Cup, Lawless moved to the Sharks and made arguably the greatest team debut in rugby history.

The Otago Highlanders have never leaked points like they did in Durban that day. Lawless scored four tries and added another 30 points with his boot in a 75-43 demolition of the touring Kiwis. Twenty-two years later, the 50-point haul remains a Super Rugby individual record that is unlikely to fall.

You’ve read what they think, now let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • boyohttps://www.alloutrugby.com/sa-doesnt-need-world-league-jake/

    From a Natal viewpoint I always rated Jacque Botes. The Boks never played a style to suit him but he was a top player. Fourie was a good player as was lawless cant fault the picks but I am sure someone will give us a name that will make us all stop and say hang on, he never played for the boks?

    • JP Pretorius

      He did play for the boks for 2 test I think.

      • boyohttps://www.alloutrugby.com/sa-doesnt-need-world-league-jake/

        Sadly not he played once for the emerging springboks but that was it. 115 super rugby caps and 27 super rugby tries is a lot to be proud of though.

  • Franco

    Ruan Ackermann – especially with our troubles at 8. He would be the modern day Danie Rossouw. What a loss to SA Rugby.

    • John Comyn

      Not sure what his form has been like recently but he is certainly someone I would consider for the WC squad.

      • Jozua

        He is eligible for england next year, so we might never see him play for the boks?

  • John Comyn

    Tank – do you remember a guy called Neil Burger? Played for Province back in the day when guys like Divan Serfontein and Rob Louw were around. Not sure but I think Mallett was also in the side. Huge winger, literally unstoppable from anywhere in the attacking zone. Top try scorer in CC for 2 or 3 years running. Many said he was the unluckiest not to wear the G&G. Mind you back then jerseys weren’t dished out in lucky packets! Now we have guys playing their 1st SR game and people are selecting them in our WC squad.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Do I remember? Had the pleasure of playing with him for WP. Sensational. And yes, giant. Did not get to play Super Rugby though. And that was a criteria

      • Gunter

        He was brilliant and should’ve been a Bok. Another unlucky player was Jan “Boelie” Serfontein. Played for EP at no 8, SA Schools as well. Jan (bok centre) dad

      • Craig

        Unfortunately had a career that ran with Ray Mordt.

  • Wesley

    Ettienne Reynecke perhaps, but same as Deon Fourie, he was also behind all the hooker greats of 2007. He was at least called up with the training squad that year though.

  • Wesley

    Harold Vorster also comes to mind when he was at his best the last 2 years. He has had a dip in form recently, but we have been plodding on with DDA for a 4 years now with little to nothing to show for it. Pretty same as what happened sticking with De Wet Barry instead of taking on Ettiene Botha when he showed his class, although opening the door eventually for the JDV / Fourie combo.

    • Chris Mouton

      I fully agree! A lot of people were calling for RJvR, but I’m a bigger fan of Vorster. He’s consistently good!

      • Wesley

        I must admit i had a bit of a gripe with Rassie including Ruhan Nel into the Bok group last year above Vorster. I rate Ruhan as well, but Vorster was already very much proven in 15s and they pretty much same build and style. Ruhan not getting game time yet but seems he is the go-to for Rassie as backup atm.

        • Barry

          Harold Vorster is very solid and has been for some time. I believe it was Tank that said the form Currie Cup Centres were Ward & Louw. So anyone of those three should have found a seat on the plane to Europe. Instead we got a guy who had just swopped codes and had no credentials of note in the 15’’s game!

          It doesn’t quite add up does it?

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Big fan of Voster. Must be a Bok some time. Struggling with an injury at the moment I think

  • Ulrich

    Here are a few interesting ones:

    -> Huw Jones – Not originally ours, but I think he may have qualified
    -> James O’Connor – Included out of interest. He was eligible to play for all three Tri-Nations teams before his debut although he turned out to be a bit of a brat so no real loss there.
    -> Greg Rawlinson, only the second ever South African All Black after Andrew Mehrtens
    -> Pieter de Villiers – France
    -> Dan Vickerman – Australia
    -> CJ Stander – Ireland
    -> WP Nel – Scotland
    -> Wes Goosen – Playing for the Hurricanes

    • Wesley

      I believe the article aims at Super Rugby players eligible for Boks, and Pieter de Villiers always been based in France (to my knowledge).

      • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

        De Villiers and I vied for the WP U20 No.3 jersey back in the day. He was a WP boy through and through who went to France when deemed too small to play tighthead in SA

        • Wesley

          Thanks Tank, didnt know that. I’m sure the WP rues the day after they saw what he turned out as. I feel the same about Stander’s loss to Ireland. Oh well, hind sights 20 20.

          • Whinger

            WP had Kobus Visagie at the time. De Villierswas behind him in the queue.

  • John Comyn

    Hey Barry – who do you think? Anyone of the following perhaps? Aphelele Fassi, Makazole Mapimpi, Robert du Preez, Louis Schreuder, Daniel du Preez, Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen, Ruan Botha, Hyron Andrews, Kerron van Vuuren, Juan Schoeman, Gideon Koegelenberg, Phepsi Buthelezi, Cameron Wright, Jeremy Ward, Curwin Bosch

    • Chris Mouton

      Hahaha! A few of those were already capped to be honest. I’m quite miffed that Philip van der Walt never made it, though. There were just too many flankers in the way.

      • Barry

        Stats show him as the best Flank in Super Rugby in 2018 (SA players), yet hardly gets a mention. Back soon I hop from injury!

        • SweetAz

          I like him as a player but he seems a bit injury prone,—much like that other guy from the kittens, Whiteby or Witless or Witesomething.

    • Barry

      John, pleased to see you are starting to get the hang of things – progress at last!

      By the bye, The Du Preez, Mpimpi and Bosch are already capped. Try and keep up John!

      • John Comyn

        I was not sure if the first timers were capped in the freindly against Wales last year. You have answered that thank you.

        • Barry

          About 11 caps between them, I think. Certainly way more than, for instance; Seabelo Senatla, Jean-Luc Du Plessis, Dan Du Plessis, Sergeal Petersen, SP Marais, Ruhan Nel!

          • Gunter

            But they still floored you in the Tank!

  • Barry

    Of the two I would go with Gavin Lawless.

    My thoughts come from those that were fundamentally forced overseas through non-selection in SA – I see some have already been covered:

    Pieter De Villiers
    Josh Strauss
    CJ Stander
    Rory Kockott

    Of these Pieter de Villuers probably had the most impact internationally, having represented France in two World Cups.

    Also on my list would be Heinrich Brussow. He did play for the Boks, so strictly doesn’t qualify, but really what a wasted talent- overlooked for so many years by coaches with size hang ups!

    • John Comyn

      At least Pdivvy got to coach the boks.

      • Barry

        That would be Pieter, not Peter!

    • Wesley

      If we going to mention and debate capped but under-utilized players like Brussow, we are going to be here forever!

  • Taufeeq

    Chris Cloete, played for the Kings, now playing for Munster.

    • Amien

      Damn he is a flippen unit. Can we still get him?

    • Wesley

      Good one Taufeeq! Gosh what a talent, but again, not since Brussouw have we had a proper strong fetching flanker. Seems any flanker under 1.8m doesnt make it to the stage…

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Great call. And went to the Kings after WP cut him from their player roster!!

  • Safmarine

    Barabas Venter and DeWaal Nigrini

    • Wesley

      Damn Saf, showing off your age there friend….

  • Herman Schroder?

    What’s next who had the best tea girl in SR ? For what it’s worth a lot of the players mentioned were never tested in the cauldron that is modern rugby. So argument a bit pointless chaps. Even the current crop are all fairly average which is a problem for Rassie imo.

    A Springbok team should be made up of 15 to 23 absolute standouts with high skill levels, vision, mental strength and consistency. Very little of that shown last year with, as Rassie put it, a pretty average 50 / 50 win ratio. Can they all show at least a 40% improvement in the last four tests before the WC ? Regrettably I doubt it.. Cheers.

    • Wesley

      What the hell Hermie, your comment had nothing to add to the article, just wanting to take a dump on eveything it seems.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Wesley, if going off topic is banned on these forums then most sites will be reduced by half so why pick on me ? In most cases the truth is hurting some people and it’s open season on the poster who is only expressing an opinion. Maybe we should ask AOR to draw up a list of do’s and dont’s so cheap critics like yourself can refer to them. So much for free speech, lol. Cheers.

    • Barry

      I had Josh Strauss on my list Hermione, who lead the Lions with great distinction and has also knocked up 15 test caps for Scotland!

      Not even worth a mention hey!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Barry a gutsy player no doubt but it took Scotland quite a few years to get him up to scratch. Kudos to him however that he did manage it although Scotland until fairy recently were pretty poor and the smallest union by far in the UK. So a bit of perspective needed there. This whole debate is so subjective anyway which is what I tried to point out in my much maligned post above. Ah well you can’t please everyone so you may as well please yourself as the song goes. Cheers.

        • SweetAz

          Like the only troepie in step…………………

    • John Comyn

      Common Hermie give us a name! there has to be one or two Stormers you can think of.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Theo Wakefield and Alistair Coetzee. Cheers.

    • Chris Mouton

      And this is why we bring umbrellas to this forum. So that Uncle Hermie’s pinkle doesn’t ruin our parade. You always have to be the “drol in the drinkwater”, hey Herman?

      Nobody’s arguing here, we’re all just discussing great players who never made it all the way due to unfortunate circumstances. Guess it’s asking too much of you to have some civil conversation here.

      • Herman Schroder?

        To each his own old chap, remember you have the option to ignore me. See my responses to the other snipers above. Cheers.

  • Amien

    I would say unluckiest would be ettiene botha of the bulls. Most underated player in my mind miles better than De wet barry.

  • SweetAz

    I would have to go with Ettiene Botha, Josh Strauss, CJ Stander, Francois Venter, Paul Willemse. I really wish I could think of some more centre’s, flyhalves and fullbacks as we have been really struggling there for real depth and talent for a long time now.

    • Whinger

      Which of Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Tpit, RG Snyman or Jason Jenkins would you leave out to accommodate Paul Willemse?

      • SweetAz

        Fair point, but in your list, the only other NR 5 is Franco Mostert who some would argue is far too athletic to be a NR 5, -So in effect, you are comparing an enforcer with a bunch of jumpers. I contend Willemse is more the Bakkies Botha type of lock and we don’t have one like that at present,—Etsebeth may have muscles but he doesn’t really have that Bakkies mindset.

        • Gunter

          O come on SweetAz Get a life Bakkies wasn’t better than Etsebeth. He was a walking penalty to happen. Etsebeth and Retalick are monsters

    • Barry

      Francois Venter actually has 7 caps. Just not on Remgro’s current approval list!

  • Chris

    Shaun Sowerby got 20 minutes for the Boks in a WC warm-up game. Absolute waste! He was amazing and was rated the best eighth man in Europe in the heyday of Dallaglio, Parisse etc.

    For non-capped I’d probably look at Jacques Botes, Etienne Botha and Chris Cloete.

    • Whinger

      Best club eighth man in Europe. Good player, but he was no Parisse.

  • Chris

    And Louis Ludick was also very unlucky not to be capped by the Boks.

    • boyohttps://www.alloutrugby.com/sa-doesnt-need-world-league-jake/

      Ludik was a very very good FB! Also Willem De Waal unlucky

    • Whinger

      In place of Willie le Roux?

  • Bergie

    Victor Matfield or Juan de Villiers.
    Or did they get capped once or twice?

    • Gunter

      Don’t know about Juan de Villiers but Jean de Villiers yes!

  • Dean Bright

    Akker’s klein boetie, Duhan van der Merwe. He’s 100kg and got pace to burn anybody on a rugby field.

    • Chris Mouton

      Good call! He’s quite a dynamic player!

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