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Today is day 530 of 1 449 as world champions. It’s also as good a day as any to rewatch Chasing the Sun, if you’re looking for something to pop on the telly.
Since that wonderful day back in 2019, when Siya Kolisi and the Springboks lifted the trophy, our national team remains unbeaten, and Siya has moved to the Sharks.
We haven’t played a test match, but let’s just go with unbeaten.
According to a recent ranking by New Zealand website Stuff, Siya is the 10th most influential rugby player on the planet, and the second highest-ranked South African.
Pieter-Steph du Toit is ranked third overall, and the panel responsible for the rankings call him a “physical specimen”, a “beast at the breakdown and a tackling machine”.
That victory over the All Blacks in 2018, and our sustained, aggressive defence against the Poms during our World Cup win (32-12) come to mind.
The judging panel consisted of Stuff rugby writers Aaron Goile, Marc Hinton, Paul Cully, Richard Knowler, and Robert van Royen; former All Black Aaron Mauger, former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, former Black Fern Izzy Ford, and Wellington Pride player Alice Soper.
Here’s the write-up for Siya in 10th:
Inspirational leader, generational talent and sensational player, the Springboks skipper has emerged as one of the most influential figures in international rugby since rising, from humble beginnings in an Eastern Cape township, to the captaincy of his country….
A magnificent athlete and dynamic flanker who blends speed, power and work rate in equal quantities, is equally comfortable on either side of the scrum.
Before we get to the top two, there were seven other Springboks in the top 50:
I won’t be alone in thinking that Cheslin deserves to be higher on this list, given the consistency of his performances for Toulouse since our World Cup success.
The judging panel heralded his quick feet, saying “he just might be the most dangerous speed merchant in international rugby”. The write-up adds that he is great under the high ball, and doesn’t miss many tackles.
Unlike Owen Farrell, who, rather fittingly, came in just behind Cheslin at number 15 on the list.
In second spot is All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith:
Durable and tough as well as skilful, the brilliant All Blacks side that won the Rugby World Cup in 2015 was built on Smith’s swift pass, while he urged on his forwards with his infamous energy levels. At 32, Smith is still relentlessly looking for ways to improve his game, trains ferociously and has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby until 2023.
Great player, but don’t leave him unattended in an airport bathroom for too long.
Finally, the world’s most influential rugby player, according to Stuff’s panel, is England’s Maro Itoje:
Itoje is the world’s best and 2021 could cement his place as one of the game’s great locks, despite England’s awful Six Nations campaign. The 26-year-old is one of the leading candidates to skipper the British and Irish Lions against South Africa, and he would become the first black captain of the touring side.
With Saracens and England, Itoje has established himself as one of the most dominant forwards in the world, as he demonstrated with his incredible performance in England’s demolition job of the All Blacks in the 2019 World Cup semifinals in Japan…
He has played 51 tests since his England debut in 2016 and could become a legend of the game.
You can read the full glowing appraisal of Itoje’s prowess here.
Ultimately, these lists are subjective, but there’s no denying the immense impact Itoje has when he steps on to the field, whether for England or Saracens.
Here’s hoping he’s less effective for the British & Irish Lions later this year.
In honour of Pieter-Steph in third, and Siya in 10th, and the other seven World Cup heroes who cracked the list, let’s finish with a look at that passage of brutal defence from the final.
You. Shall. Not. Pass.
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