Rugby World Cup 2011
Brüssow key to Boks' hopes
Heinrich Brussow (Gallo Images)
Durban - Heinrich Brüssow may be the smallest man in the South Africa forwards but the openside flanker could well be the most influential player in the team as the Springboks prepare to defend their rugby World Cup crown.
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Brüssow, who stands just 1.80m (5' 11") tall, is something of an anomaly in Springbok rugby which, traditionally, has been obsessed with size.
If one considers that Brüssow's likely loose forward partners, Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger, are both comfortably over 1.90m (6' 3") it shows just how hard Brüssow has had to work just to force himself into international contention.
That he has thrived on the international stage is testament to his skill in the breakdown and the different dimension he has brought to the Springboks which had relied, for the most part, on tall ball-carriers and line-out options in their mix.
Former Australia captain and World Cup winner John Eales, writing in Australian newspaper The Melbourne Age summed up Brüssow's importance to the Springboks.
(Brüssow may be) the smallest man in their pack ... (but) his play enables them to compete in a fast-paced, modern style of game, even if they don't willingly play that way themselves," said Eales.
Brüssow has a refreshingly simple view of his role in the team.
"A fetcher's job is to be in the opposition's faces, slow ball down, make a lot of tackles and make sure that your team gets quick and good ball and that is my main focus," he said during this year's Tri-Nations.
Brüssow, 25, made his test debut off the bench against England at Twickenham in November 2008 but he made his mark on the international stage against the British and Irish Lions in 2009 as South Africa clinched a 2-1 series win.
The Bloemfontein-born loose forward, who enjoys fishing or hunting during his downtime, then played a pivotal role as the Springboks secured the Tri-Nations title in the same year.
Brüssow's career has been dogged by injury and he missed the entire 2010 international season because of a knee ligament injury while he missed a large part of this year's Super Rugby tournament because of rib and then hamstring injuries.
But his importance to the Springboks was underlined when coach Peter de Villiers had no qualms in thrusting Brüssow straight back into the Tri-Nations despite his lack of playing time -- he had only played 25 minutes for his provincial team, the Cheetahs, in a Currie Cup match.
Brüssow was considered man of the match for the Springboks in their 18-5 victory over the All Blacks in their final Tri-Nations encounter, constantly slowing down New Zealand's ball and effecting turnovers.
The key will be whether he is able to repeat the feat against All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who did not play in Port Elizabeth, and Australia's David Pocock and nullify their impact should the teams meet in the World Cup.