The Cheetahs produced their best performance of the season in Bloemfontein on Saturday, scoring five tries against one of the best defences in the competition. At the heart of their showing was Willie le Roux, but equally influential was openside flanker Heinrich Brüssow.
It is no coincidence the Cheetahs have hit form in the Super Rugby competition following Brüssow’s return from injury. His absence from the start of the season hurt them hard, but he made a huge impact on his return to the competition, when the Cheetahs visited the Sharks, and last weekend was Man of the Match against the Stormers.
Brüssow now plays his rugby in Japan – and he’s headed back that way after his Super Rugby stint – but one has to wonder whether he’s not a player Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has to consider.
For whatever reasons, Brüssow has been overlooked by Meyer; perhaps he’s considered too small, perhaps he gives away a few too many penalties or perhaps Meyer just doesn’t rate him. It’s a mystery why the 27-year-old, who was one of the chief destroyers of the British and Irish Lions a few years ago, isn’t even in the mix.
Yes, Francois Louw, who’s based in Bath, England, has done a fantastic job for Meyer as the specialist openside flank – as has Marcell Coetzee when he’s had a chance – and he’s combined excellently with Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts, but surely Brüssow can add some value to the Bok squad.
He’s a hugely influential player, who’s rated across the globe and, besides his skills as ball poacher at the breakdowns, he has an uncanny ability to disrupt the opposition’s ball and slow it down. He’s done it throughout his career and was at it again against the Stormers on Saturday.
Allister Coetzee and Jean de Villiers mentioned the influence of Brüssow in the Cheetahs game and Adriaan Strauss said: “He makes a big impact and he demands respect. He makes good decisions at vital moments … and that’s something we’ve lacked up to now.”
Brüssow is considered one of those special players all coaches want in their team; strangely, though, some don’t see the value of a small, stocky specialist ‘fetcher’. Jake White didn’t believe in an out-and-out fetcher and it seems Meyer, too, prefers bulk in his loose-trio, rather than specialist skill.
Sure, there are quality loose forwards in South African rugby, men who all offer something different and unique and, let’s be fair, are quality players, but with the next World Cup likely to be a forwards-orientated showdown on heavy northern hemisphere fields, Brüssow might just be the man to wear the Bok No6 jersey. - The Star