Springbok rugby enforcers. South Africa has been blessed with many lock forwards who have carried that mantel. Big brutes who take no-nonsense on the field.
A big part of their role is to push the boundaries of physicality. Power is a very important part of their game. Their role at scrum time is critical, providing the power support behind the tighthead prop. They add the “mongrel” to the pack. Springbok rugby enforcers tend to draw the most attention, but the role is fulfilled by similar types of players in all teams to varying degrees.
Ryan Jordan asked social media users to nominate their favourite Springbok rugby enforcers.
Players of more recent times are highlighted here purely as a sample of the type of players who have filled this role for the Springboks. South Africa has had so many great players in the lock position that it would be impossible to include them all in one article. The players listed below are noted for a mixture of big hits, big carries and loads of power with very little attempt at subtlety.
Springbok rugby enforcers – A power play
The crowd favourites were:
Geldenhuys had a very short career at Test level. Only four Tests at the time of South Africa’s return to international rugby. Those who played with or against him will attest to the fact that he was not a man to be messed with. It was a bit “back in the day” when Geldenhuys played. Taking the law into his own hands was always an option with no TMO and cameras around. “Mountaineering” was a specific talent.
Kobus Wiese played in 19 Tests and loved to have a rampaging run with ball in hand. Wiese was a popular pick among South African fans. Although it did not epitomize his entire career, he is remembered for “that” punch that knocked out Wales lock Derwyn Jones in 1995. He was a member of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok team. He has since become successful in business with his Wiesenhoff brand of coffees and coffee shops as well as a coffee bean roastery.
Wiese remains active in the public eye working as a pundit for SuperSport.
Ackermann played 13 Tests, along with his playing career with the Johannesburg-based Lions, Northampton Saints and the Sharks from Durban. He was another true hard man of Springbok rugby, with maybe a quieter style of getting his point across.
He moved on from his playing career into coaching. He took over a struggling Lions team that had been relegated from Super Rugby. He molded the player group available to him into the Super Rugby championship contenders they became after they regained their spot in the competition.
Ackermann moved on to coach Gloucester in England for three years. He now plies his trade in Japan with NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes and still has ambitions to coach an international team.
Bakkies is better known to his mom as John Philip Botha. Botha was one of those “Marmite” players. You love them or you hate them. Springbok rugby enforcers are known to push the boundaries of physicality. Botha could sometimes be accused of making his own boundaries. Former Springbok captain John Smit is on record stating that he had to ask him on a few occasions to please drop it down a level. Not known for any particular abilities running with the ball in hand, but beware of his tackling and ruck cleanouts. Botha was all power in the scrum.
When John Smit was moved to tighthead prop there were genuine concerns about his ability to anchor the Springbok scrum. Botha famously told the media that they had nothing to worry about. With him scrumming behind his captain, Smit wasn’t going to take a step backward.
Botha now runs his own business “Bakkies the Butcher“, selling meat products and spices to butcheries in South Africa.
Snyman is a bit of a hybrid enforcer. He has the physical presence and attitude to play that role. When given the opportunity, he does have impressively soft hands when passing and offloading. He also has surprising pace for a lock forward. Injury has been Snyman’s enemy. If he can stay injury free, he is young enough to make a serious contribution to South African Rugby and compete in two more Rugby World Cups.
Etzebeth is the current yardstick that all enforcers are measured against. This is strange in itself for a youngster who played his junior school rugby in the backline. He is big, aggressive and extremely powerful. He rightfully attracts negative comments from the fans of the teams he plays against. Sometimes, the negativity he attracts is not fair or accurate.
The truth about bully beef
Bully beef. If it is to your taste, you love it. If it isn’t, you hate it. (the same as with Marmite.) The reality is that the enforcer is key to the Springbok game plan. Love it or hate it, it isn’t going anywhere soon.
“Main Photo Credit”