Playing at No 5 against Fiji, Danie Rossouw showed why he’s one of the most valuable members of the Springbok squad.
Rossouw won the 2007 Super 14 playing flank for the Bulls, and helped the Boks to a world title in 2007 playing at No 8. He played some of his best rugby for the Boks in the No 4 position in 2010, standing out for a team that was battling for results.
Rossouw delivered a powerful showing in last week’s World Cup opener against Wales, and a change of position did little to diminish his potency in the most recent fixture against Fiji.
With Victor Matfield and Johann Muller on the injured list, Peter de Villiers was forced to pick Rossouw in the No 5 position, and his dominant performance at the lineout aside, he was magnificent with ball in hand.
‘I was very pleased with his performance, the old man played with a revitalised engine,’ said De Villiers after the Fiji match. ‘It also came down to our structures, he needed to be able to choose the right lines to run.
‘My concerns before the game were that he’d played 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and every position requires you to run different lines and perform different roles. So for him to fit in like he did – I take my hat off to him.’
It was far from a flawless performance, as Rossouw missed several tackles. But by in large, Rossouw was full value for his man of the match accolade.
The versatile Bulls forward broke tackles, stepped round defenders and created try-scoring opportunities for his team-mates. The Boks’ third try came after Rossouw had broken clean through and laid the platform for a wide attack.
His support play was excellent and as De Villiers suggests, he worked hard to be in the right position and generate attacking continuity. He was rewarded with a try right at the death when he blasted through the tired Fiji defence.
‘It was a looser game today, so you needed to be able to adapt and run the right line,’ Rossouw said. ‘It started out very tight and physical, so we had to be able to stand up to them in that area. But them as the game opened up, we needed to adapt and keep the ball alive in contact.
The Boks scored six tries in all, and Rossouw said the performance had given the Boks a lot of confidence. While they won’t get ahead of themselves, they believe it was a performance that indicates they are headed in the right direction.
‘I’m happy about the fact that we scored some tries today. There’s a perception that we play boring rugby, so it felt good to throw the ball around and get some tries. I felt proud after that performance.’
Matfield will return to the starting side before the play-offs, while Bakkies Botha came through Saturday’s game having not exacerbated his Achilles injury. Rossouw is likely to sit on the bench in the big games, but it will help the Boks’ cause to have a player of such quality and versatility to call on in the dying stages of the game.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Wellington