The Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV: CJ's skill and quality better than the rest
AS part of The Glory of '95 series, three of IOL Sport's rugby writers decided to pick their ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV. Today we look at the tighthead prop.
Candidates: Balie Swart (1995), CJ van der Linde (2007), Frans Malherbe (2019)
Jacques van der Westhuyzen
It doesn’t get any easier as we edge closer to finalising our ultimate final team. Balie Swart played in only 16 Tests between 1993 and 1996, but he was an absolute powerhouse for te Boks in his four starts during the World Cup in 1995.
In the final, he, together with hooker Chris Rossouw and a young Os du Randt, put the highly fancied All Blacks front row of Craig Dowd, Sean Fitzpatrick and Olo Brown under huge amounts of pressure, laying the foundation for the Bok win.
Twelve years later CJ van der Linde anchored the Bok scrum, which again dominated against a rated England team and last year it was big Frans Malherbe who helped put the Boks on top up front - again against a highly-rated England team, who were heavy favourites going into the final.
All three men got big ticks behind their names following their performances at the World Cup and it is unfair to pick one above the other.
Today though I’m backing Van der Linde. For 10 years and 75 Test matches between 2002 and 2012, the former Grey College pupil stood up to every test that came his way. He was a rock in the 2007 tournament, with John Smit and Du Randt with him in the front row.
Not only was Van der Linde a quality scrummager, he also got involved as a regular ball-carrier and got around the field to make his fair share of tackles.
Jacques’ choice: CJ van der Linde
Frans Malherbe may have played in the two more recent World Cups, but he just shades Balie Swart and CJ van der Linde for the tighthead prop berth.
The barrel-chested Western Province man had to play second fiddle initially to Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but the shock opening defeat to Japan saw Malherbe brought on to the bench for the rest of the pool stages.
The experienced Du Plessis, seen mainly as a scrummager, would then regularly be replaced by Malherbe for the final 30 minutes, with the 24-year-old impressing with his work-rate on defence and power in the scrums.
The man from Bredasdorp earned a start against the United States when Du Plessis nursed a knee injury, and had done enough to convince coach Heyneke Meyer that he should retain the No 3 jersey for the quarter-final against Wales.
But before the playoffs, Malherbe survived an inquiry about an alleged biting incident against the USA, with the IRB clearing him.
He produced a solid display in the 23-19 win over the Welsh, and kept his place for the semi-final against the All Blacks.
Although Handre Pollard kept the Boks going in the rain at Twickenham, the Kiwis had just a bit more bite in their attack to edge home 20-18.
Malherbe was again unsure of his starting spot heading into the 2019 edition, with Trevor Nyakane making a strong bid for the No 3 jersey.
But a pre-tournament knee injury to the Bulls man was followed by a torn calf muscle as a replacement against New Zealand in the first match that saw him replaced by Thomas du Toit.
Malherbe improved with every performance, and kept his best for last with an outstanding effort in the final against England, where the Bok pack pulverised the opposition scrum.
His willingness to get involved in the tight loose on attack and especially defence, to add to his scrumming prowess, makes him stand out from all the Bok tightheads over the years.
Ashfak’s Choice: Frans Malherbe
Balie Swart was not the biggest of tightheads (108 kgs, 1.85m) but he punched above his weight at the ’95 event. He will forever be remembered for his heroic stand in the set scrums in the last minutes of the semi-final against France.
In the 2007 final, CJ van der Linde was a much bigger tighthead prop for the Boks (125kgs, 1.89m) but had impressive mobility for a large man, with ball-playing skills to match. He was explosive off the mark and often generated momentum for the Boks with ball in hand. He could tackle with a vengeance, too.
Last year in Japan, Frans Malherbe was Rassie Erasmus’ go-to man at tighthead ahead of Vincent Koch. The portly Malherbe scrummed aggressively against England in the final and was never shy to take the ball up. A solid 120kgs and 1.9m, Malherbe proved a handful for the English.
Choosing one of these three is a toughie because there is no standout. A sentimental choice would be Swart, and Malherbe’s charges with the ball are still fresh in the mind, but I am ultimately going for Van der Linde because of his superior all-round game.
He was agile for a huge fellow and his mobility allowed him to get around the park and get through a mountain of work.
Mike’s choice: CJ van der Linde