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!