Cape Town - It’s a difficult and pretty
subjective exercise, so don’t hang me for it.
You aren’t always comparing apples with
apples, and rugby has changed much more than some may think in 20 years.
But we thought it might be fun anyway, on
the anniversary of the immortal Springbok World Cup success of 1995, to
engineer a comparison between the possible Bok personnel to be employed on key
occasions later this year and Francois Pienaar’s heroic starting XV at Ellis
Here we go ...
Andre Joubert v Willie le Roux
Both men have that appealing “make things
happen” factor from the last line of defence. But the ’95 fullback, who played
the final with a broken hand, was a particularly composed, complete player and
less error-prone than the risk-taking (though let’s not discourage that!)
My choice: Joubert
James Small v JP Pietersen
I might have been swayed toward the
long-striding Pietersen a few years ago. But he seems to have lost some of that
defence-splitting X-factor on attack, and let’s never forget the tenacious job
Small did of marking a certain Jonah Lomu at Ellis Park.
My choice: Small
Japie Mulder v Jean de Villiers
The former had a productive alliance with
then-Transvaal team-mate Hennie le Roux, and possessed strong leg-drive at
outside centre. But for his years of yeoman service and overall midfield nous,
the 2015 (touch wood) Bok skipper is hard to overlook.
My choice: De Villiers
Hennie le Roux v Damian de Allende
De Allende has been a very rare shining
light among SA backs in Super Rugby this year, and may well command inside
centre for the Boks over the next few months. But he remains raw
internationally, so the clever, multi-skilled Le Roux should crack the nod,
My choice: Le Roux
Chester Williams v Bryan Habana
Two iconic wings, as well as distinguished
poster figures for post-apartheid transformation. But you’d have to think
Habana, at his rocket-like peak (when he would have been a World XV shoe-in),
is the slightly superior pick.
My choice: Habana
Joel Stransky v Handre Pollard
The still-developing Pollard may well go on
to become one of the Boks’ very best at flyhalf. But there are understandably
still some rough edges, and partly on emotional grounds I suspect many would
lean toward the dropped-goal darling of ’95!
My choice: Stransky
Joost van der Westhuizen v Fourie du Preez
Eish! We are talking two genuinely
world-renowned scrumhalves here. They are slightly different beats in playing
style, with Joost the combative - though also elusive - gladiator and ‘FDP’
renowned for his game-bossing and great awareness.
My choice: Dead heat
Mark Andrews v Duane Vermeulen
An unfair comparison, of course. Standout
lock Andrews, to his credit, agreed to temporary deployment as eighthman for
the crucial last two games of RWC ’95, and fared decently enough. But Vermeulen
is a modern specialist, near-legend of the berth.
My choice: Vermeulen
Ruben Kruger v Schalk Burger
The sadly deceased Kruger was an unassuming
battler of repute, but versatile Burger (capable of occupying all three loosie
spots) is a former IRB World Player of the Year and just does not know how to
switch off that engine ...
My choice: Burger
Francois Pienaar v Francois Louw
Phew, tough one, actually. Bath-based “Flo”
has become the Boks’ very efficient main fetcher in recent seasons. But heart
could well over-rule head for a few pundits in this duel, and Pienaar’s revered
leadership 20 years ago played a big, big role on that giddy day!
My choice: Pienaar
Hannes Strydom v Victor Matfield
Big Hannes was an ever-professional,
no-fuss second rower for the Boks or Transvaal. But Matfield is also a World
Cup winner (12 years onward from Strydom) and arguably the lineout king of all
My choice: Matfield
Kobus Wiese v Eben Etzebeth
Hmm, two enforcers of the No 4 jersey, even
if in significantly differing eras. Wiese had a scarily hefty build and must
have been a scrummager of repute. The emerging Etzebeth, meanwhile, is not yet
the finished article for SA but has fine athletic skills to accompany his
My choice: Dead heat
Balie Swart v Jannie du Plessis
Another conundrum: in truth, the Boks have
probably boasted tightheads of deeper gravitas than either man. But they’ve
been in right places at right times for respective RWC glory and hats off to
them for that. Big Jannie has been overworked for a couple of years and his
spot this year is under threat from someone like Frans Malherbe.
My choice: Swart
Chris Rossouw v Bismarck du Plessis
The first-named player deputised with
aplomb at hooker in RWC 1995 after James Dalton’s tourney-ending disciplinary
episode. But Du Plessis is a far more prolifically-capped man at Test level,
and at times branded the planet’s finest in the No 2 shirt. Also a
turnover-generator par excellence.
My choice: Du Plessis
du Randt v Tendai Mtawarira
“Beast” has had some glorious moments at
loosehead for the Boks, including that famous dismantling of Phil Vickery on
the Lions’ 2009 tour, but Du Randt is a true legend, staggeringly mobile for a
huge man, and only South African RWC dual winner!
My choice: Du Randt
Summary: My survey sees seven of the class of ’95 earning positional
preference, compared to six from the current brigade ... with two dead heats.
So the RWC heroes of 20 years ago steal the Sport24 spoils.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing