While we might not see a few of the triumphant 2007 World Cup squad in action again given the change in the coaching guard and a few of the players penchant for the Pound, only two of the squad officially retired from all rugby after the event.
Those being Bob Skinstad and Os du Randt. So of the starting twenty two, it is only the great man, Os, that we are guaranteed to never see in the Green and Gold again. Sadly ...
I am not really a stats man - something that exiting coach, Jake White, certainly is - as they can most often be manipulated to suite any cause.
But some just do not lie. Jacobus Petrus Du Randt, born 8 September 1972, was the last active member of the Bok 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning squad, and on 80 caps, retired as South Africa's third most-capped player ever and most-capped forward. At 13 years and 12 days, his was the longest Springbok career ever, and at age 35 years and 42 days, he was the 7th oldest Springbok in a final Test.
He missed the 2003 tournament through injury but his comeback to help the Boks lift the 2007 Rugby World Cup is something that fairy tales are made of. The big man quite literally gave his body to Springbok rugby. But this is where the numbers, while telling a pretty compelling story themselves, do not tell the whole truth. You see - Os du Randt was actually much more to South African rugby ...
Smashing ears and comparing stubble
A little self indulgently, I will tell the tale of my first encounter with Os. It was in 1991 or 1992, and I had had a few relatively successful years at tighthead with the WP under 20 side, so was invited to the SA under 23 trials, to be held at Loftus. We were not told much, other than given a plane ticket and told to be at Loftus at a certain time.
Now Bok convener of selectors, Peter Jooste, was in charge of the WP boys, and on the plane up he said that I was basically a shoe in for the side, and that I just needed to get through the trial. Pretty cool for an ambitious young rugby player ...
Eighty minutes later at a dusty and dry Loftus, and I had spent the first half of the trial smashing ears and comparing stubble technique with said Os du Randt, and the second half with Rob Kempson! Welcome to the real world, big guy! Os went on to not only make that side, but every national side in need of a loosehead prop for the next fifteen years!
I wish I could say that he was the greatest scrummager that I ever came up against, but I am afraid the likes of Frans Erasmus (a beast), Toks van der Linde (on his day, almost unstoppable), Heinrich Rodgers and the relatively unknown Matie, Pierre Marais, were all more cause for concern come scrum time. But one must remember that I caught Os in his days where he was more into getting round the park to make tackles and carry the ball than worry about the set piece.
World Cup confidence
And that he certainly could do, probably being the first of the modern day props, who brought much more to the game than just focusing on the scrum and trying to sneak the odd punch in. He was just 22 at the 1995 world cup, and already he was making a name for himself as the prop who could tackle like a centre. His ability to operate as a fourth loose forward, such was his mobility, gave every side he played for, including that World Cup winning side, an amazing edge.
His comeback from a strange but very debilitating bone bruise injury to his leg that had seen big guy out of rugby for a few years, including the embarrassing 2003 World Cup campaign, just adds to the legend. And it is quite ironic that Jake White had him back in the Bok side as the man to bring stability to the Bok scrum.
And for this, White does need to take credit. I went to watch a Bok training session prior to the Tri-Nations, and Os could not even make it round the field, let alone participate in any of the session the rest of the pack was sweating through. At the time I thought it perhaps a good time to bring in a youngster like Heinke van der Merwe and put the big guy out to pasture as a consultant to the squad. But Jake was firm in his commitment to Du Randt, saying that he would be the man from which the pack would draw it's confidence. And how right he was ...
He might be remembered as the man who forgot to bring Bokkie, the Springbok mascot, to the World Cup final (as man of the match in the semi final he was responsible for bringing the mascot to the next match), but to most, he will be remembered as one of the greatest players (and men) to ever wear the coveted Green and Gold. The true essence of Springbok rugby, if you like.
And it just cannot be better said than in the words of lively rugby critic, and prop enthusiast, the late Zanberg Jansen ... Nag ou grote
Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.
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