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South Africa’s Greatest XV

As we continue our series of ‘Greatest XV’ articles, we come on next to South Africa, a country with a proud rugby tradition which has produced some of the greatest players the world has ever seen.

All the teams below are based on statistics, rather than just one person’s own opinions. This should then provide an element of objectivity to help you make up your own mind about South Africa’s ‘all-time’ team.

We’ll start with the players who have won the most games out-right: the ‘Winners XV’.

The Winners XV

When you look at this side there is an awful lot of talent and power packed into it, but also a number of players who have made names for themselves in the past 20 years.

Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira will go on to surpass Os du Randt’s record with South Africa’s next win.

Looking at the team, it’s hard to argue against many players’ inclusions.

1) Os du Randt / Tendai Mtawarira (52)
2) John Smit (58)
3) Jannie du Plessis (48)
4) Victor Matfield (79)
5) Bakkies Botha (63)
6) Juan Smith (44)
7) Schalk Burger (53)
8) Pierre Spies (34)

9) Joost van der Westhuizen (58)
10) Morne Steyn (39)
11) Bryan Habana (77)
12) Jean de Villiers (64)
13) Jacque Fourie (44)
14) JP Pietersen (47)
14) Percy Montgomery (55)

Of course, players in the modern game play an awful lot more matches than they used to. Therefore a good way to level out the playing field is to judge players on their winning percentages – so that it is relative.

The Percentage XV

For the purposes of this exercise only players with over 40 caps have been considered for the team. This is a form of ‘quality assurance’ as it is easy to gain a high winning percentage with only a handful of caps.

The team sees a number of changes with Steenkamp, Dalton, Etzebeth, Venter, Spies, Januarie and Rossouw all coming in to the side.

No doubt some fans will be questioning some of the names here, but ultimately there are the players with the best winning ratios.

1) Gurthro Steenkamp (77%)
2) James Dalton (81%)
3) Jannie du Plessis (70%)
4) Eben Etzebeth (68%)
5) Bakkies Botha (75%)
6) Juan Smith (73%)
7) Andre Venter (69%) / Schalk Burger (69%)
8) Pierre Spies (72%)

9) Ricky Januarie (72%)
10) Morne Steyn (68%)
11) Pieter Rossouw (70%)
12) Jean de Villiers (69%)
13) Jacque Fourie (72%)
14) JP Pietersen (74%)
15) Percy Montgomery (67%)

However, South African rugby has always previously had a high turnover of players. Before professionalism arrived Frik du Preez held the record for the most number of appearances in the Springbok jersey at 38. So what would happen if we significantly lowered the threshold to 25 tests?

Percentage XV (25+ Caps)

1) Gurthro Steenkamp (77%)
2) James Dalton (81%)
3) Adrian Garvey (86%)
4) Krynauw Otto (74%)
5) Bakkies Botha (75%)
6) Willem Alberts (78%)
7) Johan ‘Rassie’ Erasmus (75%)
8) Pierre Spies (72%)

9) Ricky Januarie (72%)
10) Piet Visagie (76%)
11) Chester Williams (78%)
12) Hennie le Roux (78%)
13) Jan Serfontein (73%)
14) JP Pietersen (75%)
15) Willie le Roux (72%)

A remarkably different side, but probably containing some of your favourite all-time players.

Finally, we have produced a ‘top try scorers’ XV, so you can see which players have been the most potent at finishing off opportunities.

Top Try Scorers XV

If you’re not sure who Chris Koch is, he played 22 tests for the Springboks in the 1950s. He was pretty sprightly for a prop – as evidenced by this rather beautiful finish:

Bismarck du Plessis and Mark Andrews also come into the team, and Breyton Paulse forces his way onto the other wing despite the try-scoring threat of JP Pietersen.

1) Gurthro Steenkamp (6)
2) Bismarck du Plessis (11)
3) Chris Koch (5)
4) Mark Andrews (12)
5) Victor Matfield / Bakkies Botha (7)
6) Juan Smith (11)
7) Schalk Burger (14)
8) Pierre Spies (7)

9) Joost van der Westhuizen (38)
10) Morne Steyn (8)
11) Bryan Habana (63)
12) Jean de Villiers (20)
13) Jacque Fourie (28)
14) Breyton Paulse (26)
15) Percy Montgomery (18)

There you have it, four statistically-based teams to make you think about your ‘all-time’ XV.

Are you surprised about Danie Gerber’s omission? Undoubtedly some will be shocked by Francois Pienaar’s absence, but remember that these are based on statistics. They don’t always tell the whole story.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.