Bok Team of the Decade

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Jan 01, 2020, 02:15

Still 2019 here in Chicago....time enough for one last team:

CARDINELLI selects the best players who represented the Springboks between 2010 and 2019.

15 Willie le Roux

Le Roux will be remembered as one of South Africa’s most innovative and unpredictable players. While he wore the No 15 jersey, his decision-making and distribution from the first-receiver position in later phases often allowed the Boks to make telling inroads. He didn’t always get the credit he deserved, but the 61-Test veteran played a key role across South Africa’s successful 2019 World Cup campaign.

14 JP Pietersen

Big, powerful and deceptively agile, the retreaded lock will go down in history as one of South Africa’s greatest wings. Pietersen won everything there was to win at international level between 2007 and 2009. He shone for the Boks at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, and was also part of the Bok side that won all but two of its games in 2013.

13 Jaque Fourie

Fourie seemed to get better with age. One wonders how much more he may have achieved had he remained with the Boks – rather than his club in Japan – during the latter stages of his career. Jesse Kriel and Lukhanyo Am have given Bok fans reason to cheer in recent years, with the latter’s vision and organisational ability playing a key role in the 2019 World Cup triumph.

12 Jean de Villiers

Has there ever been a better Bok midfield combo than De Villiers and Fourie? The two players complemented each other well on attack and defence. The pair had few rivals in the latter discipline during the professional era. De Villiers went on to lead the Bok side between 2012 and 2015, and won his 100th Test cap in 2014.

11 Bryan Habana

South Africa has never produced a better finisher. Habana broke the national try-scoring record in 2011 when he surpassed Joost van der Westhuizen’s tally of 38. He finished his Test career in 2016 with 67 touchdowns, two behind the all-time record-holder Daisuke Ohata of Japan. In 2014, he became the first player of colour to represent South Africa in 100 Tests.

10 Handre Pollard

This selection is bound to spark some debate. Points-machine Morne Steyn was so crucial to the Bok cause in 2009 – the year South Africa beat the British & Irish Lions and won the Tri-Nations. Steyn struggled in subsequent seasons, however, and it was only when Pollard emerged in 2014 that the Boks started to turn things around. Pollard was impressive at the 2015 World Cup as a 21-year-old. He returned from a long lay-off in 2017 to establish himself as one of the premier pivots in world rugby. His goal-kicking and game management helped the Boks win the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

9 Fourie du Preez

The Boks were always a different beast when Du Preez was pulling the strings from the No 9 position. The accuracy of his passing and kicking game often fractured opposition defences and provided the Boks with opportunities to score. One of the best scrumhalves – and indeed best players – to have ever represented the Boks.

8 Duane Vermeulen

Like Du Preez, Vermeulen was often described by his coaches as a player that summed up the situation in an instant. A powerfully built player with an appetite for collisions and breakdowns, Vermeulen still managed to contribute with some telling passes over the years. Who could forget the behind-the-back offload that set up Du Preez for the winning try in 2015 World Cup quarter-final against Wales? More recently, Vermeulen was named Man of the Match after the 2019 World Cup final.

7 Pieter-Steph du Toit

Du Toit was described as a freak of nature when he made his debut for the Boks in 2013. He excelled for South Africa – mostly in the lock position – during a difficult season in 2016 and was subsequently named SA Player of the Year. Du Toit shifted to No 7 in 2017 with outstanding results. He was named SA Player of the Year in 2018 and World Rugby Player of the Year in 2019.

6 Schalk Burger

Nobody put their body on the line like Burger. While he played more at blindside and No 8 in his latter days with the Boks, he continued to add value at the collisions and breakdown. Following his comeback from a life-threatening illness in 2014, he took his passing and linking game to another level.

5 Victor Matfield

The Boks have produced many outstanding locks over the years. None have reached the same heights as Matfield, though. The veteran continued to dominate at the lineout in his later years. He retired for the second time in 2015 after 127 Tests.

4 Eben Etzebeth

Bakkies Botha didn’t feature much in the early parts of the decade, and retired for good after a brief comeback in 2013 and 2014. South Africa’s premier enforcer in the 2010s was Etzebeth, a large and aggressive specimen who played all 85 of his Tests this decade.

3 Frans Malherbe

Malherbe cracks the nod ahead of Jannie du Plessis, another consistent contributor for the Boks between 2007 and 2015. Malherbe was the Boks’ premier tighthead prop at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. His scrummaging prowess and work around the park was invaluable to the world champions’ cause at the recent tournament in Japan.

2 Bismarck du Plessis

It’s hard to leave John Smit out as a hooker and captain given his impact over a long and distinguished Test career. Few will argue, however, that Du Plessis was the premier Bok hooker when both were vying for the position in 2010 and 2011, and in the four years that followed. Du Plessis was a powerful ball-carrier, defender, and scrummager. His decision-making and strength over the ball at the breakdowns made him an X-factor player, though.

1 Beast Mtawarira

There was a brief period in 2017 when some critics questioned Mtawarira’s worth as a scrummager and all-round contributor. The iconic loosehead prop was always well respected by those in the know, however, and continued to dominate opponents in the twilight of his 117-Test career. Mtawarira produced one of the great scrummaging performances in the 2019 World Cup final to help the Boks break the English and claim that elusive global title.

Jan 01, 2020, 02:18

For the record.....apart from Juan Smith at 7 ....I see no obvious changes. Although it says little about our tighthead stocks that there is no obvious alternative to  Fattie Malherbe.

Jan 01, 2020, 06:28

Luckily for Matfield the decade includes 2011 when Matfield still play some rugby - but then in 2011 we did go out of the WC in the quarterfinal.   His return from retirement was a disaster and badly spoiled his reputation.   So one has to bear that in mind.  In the decade covered 2001 to 2010 sure, in the latest decade never, 

The same applies to Jacque Fourie at 13,   Hopeless after his return to play in 2013 and 2014,  Same applies also to JP Pietersen.      

Juan Smith played in 1 test after 2011 and apologized to the nation after the test for an absolutely useless performance,   Burger did play in 2011 and 2015 and in the latter year was poor - especially in the signature test against Japan  in 2015,  

The problem was that often enough this type of selection is based on the reputation of players and had nothing to do with actual performances in the last decade.  Unfortunately for some players  the decade includes the disastrous coaching by De Villiers in  2011 - Meyer in the period 2012 to 2015 - Coetzee in 2016 and 2017.      

This type of selection is an exercise in futility and not worth much anyway, especially since other than the past year Springbok rugby was in serious decline and near the point of total collapse by 2017.                                       

Jan 01, 2020, 10:23

This type of selection is an exercise in futility

As are all hypothetical team selections, like team of a tournament, team of the week, etc. A bunch of names tossed together that will never see the field of play in that combination. They don't need to have real world value to be interesting and entertaining or provide food for discussion, which is pretty much what any of these hypothetical team selections is about.

Jan 01, 2020, 11:23

For a Bok team that has just won the RWC they are hugely under represented in this team. Most of these players played their best rugby in the previous decade and don't deserve their spots over the current crop. 

Jan 01, 2020, 12:48

Malherbe deserves far more credit than you give him. The unsung hero of the side. He has been bloody good for some time.

Prior to him Jannie du Plessis was very and I liked CJ vd Linde so have to disagree with you as always on your point re our tighthead stocks

Agreed with your point above Shezza my team of the decade would definitely be different to this one.

Lood or RG over an old Matfield anyday same applies to Faf over du Preez, de Allende over Jean.... the list is endless

Jan 01, 2020, 12:54

Jannie Duplessis was a good scrummager, but the worst tackler since Naas Botha. A total liability in open play. Opposition teams used him as a dummy tackler to block other Boks making tackles

Malherbe has been injury prone. He takes a while to get back into form after returning from injury. He was excellent at the world cup. 

Jan 01, 2020, 13:12

"Malherbe has been injury prone. He takes a while to get back into form after returning from injury. He was excellent at the world cup."

And also made some good hit in open play.

Jan 01, 2020, 16:56

One would certainly not drop Jean  for a dead head crashballer.....Jean was faster, a better tackler and as his numerous interceptions show, he read the play way better.

 F du Preez and Matfield were no doubt even better in the prior decade....but still easy picks. So who are the players from the current team who had a claim.....

Kolbe over JP.....I think Kolbe was so good that I could go with that. But the rest of the other 2019 players I would pick....Willie,  Pollard, Beast, Malherbe, Etzebeth and Vermeulen are already there.

Jan 01, 2020, 17:47


I had no problem with De Villiers  at 12 - but definitely with Matfield at 5 and as stated earlier Jacque Fourie was no good in the decade - bar perhaps 2011 - so selecting them is setting the bar extremely low,  I would pick Am ahead of  Fourie any day - looking at the present decade.

As to Matfield  he played badly in virtually every test in 2014 and 2015 - and that means that De Jager would be my pick,       


Jan 01, 2020, 20:00

What bullshit Jean was never quicker than de Allende and no one would pick an old Jean over de Allende the best 12 in the game right now

Matfield was utterly useless on his return a complete liability

These players belong on the previous decade list for sure

No one would pick a bunch of old farts over players in form and in their prime

No more so than boring du Preez at 9 on his return over live wire Faf

Jan 01, 2020, 20:09

Okay let's put it to a poll.

Jan 02, 2020, 16:23

All of Fourie, Matfield and Burger don't belong. I'd replace the first two with Am and Mostert, the latter is a hard choice with Franco being so unspectacular but reliable and Lood's performances fluctuating so drastically. 

Burger can be replaced by Kolisi or Louw, I'm not too bothered which. 

Du Preez and Faf is a 50/50, as is Kolbe and JP. 

Jan 02, 2020, 17:37

Burger replaced by can't be serious!

Jan 02, 2020, 18:36

No Mozart

In how many tests did Burger played between 2012 and 2015 of the 48 played?   So in the past decade how many did he play in total of the total number of tests played,   in that period there were how many tests played by Birger compared to the total played?   

In the 2015 Burger was not effective at all - he in fact was one of the major contributors  who lost the Japan test in the WC.    He was ineffective in every other WC match as well   So why is he in the squad,   

So please give us the percentage of the total number of tests he played in and I in return will provide you with the stats on the matches he played in in 2015 - and I mean all the stats.


Jan 02, 2020, 18:57

Here's the thing Mike. In spite of what you hear in Riversdale, the decade is from 2010 to the end of 2019....not from 2012 to 2015. Does that help.

Jan 02, 2020, 19:00

I’d take Kolisi over Burger anyday - I love Kolisi

Jan 02, 2020, 19:24

No Mozart

I want to find out in how many tests Burger played in the decade as a percentage of the total tests played,  He played in zero tests in the period 2012 to 2014  and zero subsequent to  2015.    Om a decade there are normally circa 120 tests,   If a players played in less than 30% of the tests played - how can he be the player of the decade -  near to 50% yes.   Otherwise NO.      

Jan 02, 2020, 19:41

Given the decade in question my side would contain all the current players given most are in their late 20’s or early 30’s so would have been at the start of their prime years at the start of the decade

So my side would include the likes of Willie, JP, de Allende, Serfontein, Frans Stein, Pollard, Jantjies, Faf, Reinach, Hougaard, Beast, Kitshoff, Bismarck, Strauss, Marx, Malherbe, Jannie, Etzebeth, Lood, PSDT, Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Vermeulen, Marcel Coetzee etc

Jan 03, 2020, 06:43

Glad you included the ... "etc" ... Stupid ... it's a big improvement on the lengthy list of nobodies we usually see from you.

Really appreciate it ... 

Jan 03, 2020, 07:43

Great selection. The big blunder of course was wee matfiled. I would take Bakkies and Eben as a lock combo any day. Eben to 5.

Anybody thinking being good in the lineout is enough to make one a great lock is very badly mistaken. 

With that weed matfiled playing you had a tight 4. Big disadvantage. 

Can't fault the other selections. Marx at his best though shade Bissie. But Marx has lacked consistency up until RWC. 

That is very formidable pack if Bakkies is added. Nobody would beat that side. 

Jan 03, 2020, 14:27

I forgot Boshoff at 10 of course!!!

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