My previous post about Springbok legends apply. That list as indicated was based on a list called 20 all Black Greats published in the New Zealand Herald. The New Zealand Herald’s main criterion was that it should be players that were world beaters and who dominated their eras on the larger world stage as players.
Now being captain of a team –all be it a very successful team- does not make you a world beater as a player.
There is in my opinion a difference between being a legend and a great. A player can be considered a great if he played more than 70 tests for his country. Certainly if he played more than 100 and from that perspective John Smit, Matfield and Percy Montgomery should be called Springbok greats as should players like John Gainsford, Frik du Preez and Jan Ellis who played respectively 33and 38 tests in the non-professional era.
John Smit is also the most capped Springbok captain and from that angle I might agree that he is one of the greats of Springbok rugby.
My list however is called Springbok legends because I don’t think a legend and a great is the same thing. A legend is somebody that lives in the ‘volksmond’. It is a talked about player due to his extraordinary exploits, characteristics or playing style. It is somebody that captured our imagination and/or who changed the way we play/see the game and/or who changed the outcome of a series with some outstanding ability/feat.
Frik du Preez was a legend and a great. Joggie Jansen became a legend due to a couple of tackles during the 1970 All Black series but he was never a world beater.
So if I were to construct a list of 20 Springbok greats my list will look at things like amount of matches played, amount of tries scored and whether the person was a world beater.
My list of 20 Springbok greats will look as follows:
- John Smit – for being the most capped Springbok captain
- Percy Montgomery – for being the first player who played 100 test matches for South Africa and for his world class accurate two-step place kicking; being the springbok that scored the most points for his country.
- Victor Matfield – for never losing a line-out contest in 110 test matches
- Bryan Habana – for having scored the most tries as a springbok
- Danie Craven – for his contributions on and off the field
- Hennie Muller – for being the most successful Springbok captain ever and for the way he redefined No8 play
- Morné du Plessis – for his leadership and success rate as a Springbok captain (86%).
- Chester Williams – for impressing everyone with his ability and decision making
- Ray Mordt – for being the first Springbok that scored three tries in one test against the All Blacks
- Frik du Preez – for being the SA rugby player of the century
- Danie Gerber – for being arguably the best center that ever played the game
- Naas Botha – for his ability to win test matches
- Joost van der Westhuizen – for his work ethic on the field and his ability to score impossible tries
- Bennie Osler – for dominating SA rugby and world rugby from the flyhalf position for longer than a decade.
- John Gainsford – for his competitiveness and longevity as a top class player
- Jan Ellis – for showing that you can be a world beater even if you play for SWA and longevity as top class performer
- Os du Randt – two RWC gold medals; and for coming back after serious injury to settle our scrum problems
- Ruben Kruger – for never taking a backward step
- Gerry Brand – a legend among legends according to Danie Craven
- Boy Louw – Danie Craven: “I don’t believe that South Africa will ever see the likes of Boy Louw again”.
I need more places for players like Phil Mostert, Philip Nel, Henry Honiball, André Venter, Rob Louw, Daan Retief, Johan Claassen, Uli Schmidt, Gerrie Germishuys, Gysie Pienaar and Carel du Plessis. So I am starting to wonder. Should I keep John Smit in just because he was the most capped Springbok captain?