Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Where does outgoing Springbok captain Jean de Villiers rank on the all-time list of South African centres?
Of course, such exercises often prove futile. How can one really measure success on a rugby field? It is not simply about the number of tries a player scores, or about how many times he represents his country.
But a look at the statistics do suggest that De Villiers is up there with the greats.
Sport24 looked at five centres over the years who come up in conversation when discussing the best to have donned the green and gold.
Jean de Villiers (2002-2015) – 109 Tests, 27 tries
De Villiers played 93 of his 109 Tests at centre while the rest came on the wing, and the numbers would have been even more astonishing had his career not been plagued by injury. Speed, anticipation, solid defence and the ability to cut through the opposition line were all attributes of his game in his prime.
Danie Gerber (1980-1992) - 24 Tests, 19 tries
Gerber is considered by many South Africans to be not only the greatest centre the country has ever produced, but the greatest player. His try ratio suggests why. Affected heavily by the isolation era, Gerber's career does not possess the numbers it deserved.
Jaque Fourie (2003-2013) - 72 Tests, 32 tries
The De Villiers/Fourie partnership will go down as one of the best ever seen. Fourie was electrifying and possessed a predatory ability to finish off moves with his pace and incisiveness. Only Joost van der Westhuizen and Bryan Habana have scored more Test tries than Fourie.
Mannetjies Roux (1960-1970) - 27 Tests, 6 tries
Although initially considered too small to be a centre, Roux quickly became known for his thunderous defensive qualities.
John Gainsford (1960-1967) – 33 Tests, 8 tries
Gainsford remains a close friend of the De Villiers family, and he is considered by those who were fortunate enough to see him play to be one of the greats.
Some other springbok centres who enjoyed successful careers:
Marius Joubert - 30 Tests, 9 tries
Robbie Fleck - 31 Tests, 10 tries
Japie Mulder - 34 Tests, 6 tries
Pieter Muller - 33 Tests, 3 tries
De Wet Barry - 39 Tests, 3 tries