André Venter sits in the middle of the Springbok match-23, in between coach Allister Coetzee and captain Eben Etzebeth. Photo: Ashfak Mohamed

CAPE TOWN – The throng of photographers and cameramen were snapping away, capturing the Springbok team in their playing kit at the official team photo session on Friday.

But the most important moment on Friday mornings for the players is the jersey handover that happens before the photos are taken.

Eben Etzebeth and his team obviously knew who it was as they posed for pictures, but the media contingent had to wait until the person emerged.

And after a few minutes, André Venter appeared. Although it’s well-known that he is to a wheelchair – due to a disease, transverse myelitis, which damaged his spine – to see the barnstorming former Springbok flank’s movement inhibited in that manner is still poignant.

Being the quiet character that he is, Venter politely declined a request from IOL Sport for an interview afterwards.

But who can forget those powerful surges with ball-in-hand, dynamic running lines, top-notch lineout work and monstrous tackles from the hardman from the Free State?

The Springboks pose for their traditional pre-match photo on Friday morning. Video: Ashfak Mohamed

Venter was one of the world’s leading blindside flanks of his time, and he earned 66 Test caps between 1996 and 2001, many of those in a dream loose trio with Rassie Erasmus at No 6 and captain Gary Teichmann at the back of the scrum.

Now 46, Venter brought the hard edge to the skilful Erasmus and the classic No 8 play of Teichmann.

One person who could draw inspiration from their encounter on Friday morning is Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Arguably the form No 5 lock in South Africa at the moment, Du Toit has again been forced by Springbok coach Allister Coetzee into blindside flank for Saturday’s showdown with the All Blacks at Newlands.

We know the problems Du Toit previously encountered in that position at Test level, most notably on defence.

The Springboks loosened up during their captain's run at Newlands on Friday. Video: Ashfak Mohamed

And he will find it tough once more to keep the likes of Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett attacking that inside channel, and possibly blindside wing Rieko Ioane.

But let’s hope he got a few pointers from Venter on how to deal with that challenge, as well as jumping at the back of the lineout, to deliver a big performance on Saturday.

 

IOL Sport