Premiership South Africa XV: The backs

10 May 1997: Joel Stransky of Leicester chips the ball forward during the Pilkington Cup Final against Sale at Twickenham in London, England. Leicester won 9-3. Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

In the fourth of our series looking at the best overseas players to have appeared in England, James Barker compiles the South Africa Premiership Rugby XV. This team  features the Springboks who’ve made the biggest impact in England. You can see the forward pack selection here

Last Word on Rugby readers and supporters were given their say on who should make this team; did your favourite make it?

Premiership South Africa XV: the backs

9. Faf de Klerk – Sale Sharks

The toughest selection choice in this team and perhaps of the whole series so far. The Premiership has been graced by several quality South African scrumhalves, including Francois Hougaard, Michael Claassens, Cobus Reinach and Neil de Kock. Eventually, de Klerk won the vote with 47%, ahead of Reinach on 36%.

de Klerk arrived in England in 2017, which at the time made him ineligible for international selection. He joined Sale from the Lions and quickly became a fans’ favourite, as well as one of the best players in the league. It is no coincidence that Sale are now challenging in the top four with de Klerk pulling the strings at nine. He is in the prime of his career and of course a new World Cup winner.

10. Joel Stransky – Leicester Tigers

The man most famous for scoring a World Cup winning drop-goal was also a key component of Leicester Tigers’ dominant side of the late nineties. Whilst this team was known mostly as a tough forward pack, Joel Stransky provided the game control and goalkicking from fly-half.

He joined Leicester in 1997, having already played in Europe after a spell in Italy.  Stransky won the Premiership in 1999, the year that started Leicester’s four year title-winning run.

11. Juan de Jongh – Wasps

Juan de Jongh’s versatility works in his favour here as he shifts to the wing of the Premiership South Africa XV. He joined Wasps in 2017, at the height of their recent success. Whilst perhaps overshadowed by bigger names like Danny Cipriani, Jimmy Gopperth and Kurtley Beale, de Jongh nonetheless became a regular in the freescoring backline.

He reached 50 Wasps appearances at the start of 2019/20, to add to his 19 Springbok caps and also an Olympic Sevens Bronze medal.

12. Brendan Venter – London Irish

Most well known for guiding Saracens to their first Premiership title, Brendan Venter also had two spells at London Irish in the early days of the league. First joining in 1998, he was a regular at inside centre. He returned after a short time back in South Africa, this time as a player/coach.

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Venter was part of the team that won London Irish’s first major trophy, the 2002 Powergen Cup. That year he also shared the Director of Rugby of the Season award with Conor O’Shea at Irish.

Following his spell as Saracens Director of Rugby, then various consultant roles, he returned to London Irish in 2016. This was as Technical Director where he put in place the coaching team led by Nick Kennedy, that bounced back from relegation to return to the Premiership.

13. Wynand Olivier – Worcester Warriors

The clear winner in the social media vote for the second centre spot was Wynand Olivier. The 36 year old spent most of his career with the Bulls in Super Rugby, before playing Japan, France and then latterly with Worcester Warriors.

Olivier has had a couple of rough years with injury but at the start of his time in England he was a regular in the Warriors lineup. In 2016/17 in particular he played in all-but-one of Worcester’s 22 Premiership games, scoring seven tries.

14. Thinus Delport – Gloucester, Worcester Warriors

Thinus Delport is fondly remembered by Gloucester supporters but he actually played nearly three times as many games for Worcester. He first came to England in 2002 and played in Gloucester’s 2003 Powergen Cup final winning side.

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Delport headed to Sixways in 2004 and spent four years there, racking up over 100 appearances. His first season was Worcester’s first in the Premiership, and he helped them become established in the top tier. He eventually left for Japan in 2008 before retiring. The winger, who also played at fullback, made a partial return to Worcester in 2011, as a recruitment consultant to Richard Hill.

15. Willie le Roux – Wasps

Another big-name signing that arrived at Wasps after their move to Coventry. Willie le Roux is the XX World Cup winner on this list and currently has 61 Springbok caps. He spent two years with Wasps and made 46 appearances, and his form helped reestablish himself in the South Africa lineup.

Since leaving Wasps, le Roux has returned to play in Japan, currently for Toyota Verblitz.

Replacements

  • Cobus Reinach – Northampton Saints
  • Michael Claassens – Bath
  • Butch James – Bath
  • JP Pietersen – Leicester Tigers
  • André Snyman – Leeds Carnegie
  • Dean Hammond – Worcester Warriors

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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