National treasure

RYAN VREDE writes Danie Rossouw’s value to the Bulls and Springboks must no longer be underestimated.

Rossouw’s form for the Bulls in the last season and a half has been exceptional. In 2010 he played the bulk of the victorious campaign at lock as cover for the injured, and later suspended, Bakkies Botha. This year Rossouw’s contributions for the Bulls have largely been restricted to cameos off the wood. Even then he has seldom failed to make an impact.

His most recent last quarter fling saw him score two tries in seven minutes in a bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs that could be crucial to their ability to sneak into a wildcard place. Notably, for 20 minutes he did so as a blindside flank.

Rossouw is reminding us once more of his immense value. We must be thankful he is a Springbok. No team in world rugby can boast a player of that calibre with a similar level of versatility. Lest we forget, this is a player that excelled at the 2007 World Cup with the Springboks as a late fill-in at No 8.

He ended up playing a decisive role in steering the team to the final. The image of him desperately scrambling to deny England’s Mark Cueto a certain try in Paris is in embedded in the memories of Springbok supporters. It was to be a telling contribution. The momentum would have shifted in England’s favour had Cueto score, and the Springboks’ capacity for a rebuttal would have been examined in the highest-pressure situation in Test rugby.

Four years on and his value, in a World Cup context, hasn’t diminished. In a seven-week campaign where injuries are a reality, he will undoubtedly be the Springboks’ most valuable forward at the tournament. Which other Test nation boasts a man who can cover 4, 5, 7 and 8 without significantly diluting the potency of their side? None.

It is also worth remembering that he will arrive at the tournament relatively fresh, having played significantly less matches than the forwards in the aforementioned positions.

In my discussions with his franchise coaches, Rossouw, more than any forward, is the one they most appreciate. They say his attitude and work ethic is top class, despite him not being a regular starter, while his temperament in high-pressure match situations is equal to that of Fourie du Preez and Victor Matfield’s.

His Springbok team-mates, any of whom have been in the national setup with him since 2003, sing the same tune. They extol his virtues as a man and rave about his brutal physicality as a player.

Certainly he will be a key figure in the Bulls’ push for a play-off place in the next three weeks. His elevation to the starting line-up for their match against the Waratahs is an astute one. The Australians will approach the match pragmatically, knowing that four points is enough to keep the Bulls at bay in the play-off race.

This environment will suit Rossouw. He wouldn’t let the team down if retained for fixtures against the Stormers and Sharks, although the need for greater mobility in search of bonus points may see Dewald Potgieter recalled.

Beyond that, he will play a pivotal role in the Springboks’ title defence. He is a national treasure.

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