Wallabies: picking the best of the best

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Mark Ella and his 1984 Grand Slam Wallabies colleagues. AAP Image/Sergio Dionisio

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    During a train trip yesterday, a rugby-mad passenger across the aisle asked who is the greatest Wallaby I’ve ever seen? In a nano-second I answered Mark Ella.

    After a series of subsequent questions, he suggested I should write the results of our chat on The Roar today. And here it is.

    The greatest Wallaby, and why is it Ella?
    He’s the most intuitive and innovative footballer I’ve ever seen from any code – mercurial Mark.

    There was nothing he couldn’t do on the rugby field, highlighted by his ability to somehow do the impossible like ghost his way through the equivalent of the front foot of Fort Knox.

    Team-mates who trailed him were more often than not gift-wrapped an arm-chair ride into clear air. The tragedy is Ella retired at 25 after only 25 caps, at the top of his game, having scored a try in each of the history-making Grand Slam tour of 1984.

    Other contenders: John Eales, and the leading light of the 40s and 50s, the head-geared centre, Trevor Allan.

    The best pair of hands?
    Shared by Ella and dual-international John Brass. No pass was too difficult for either, instanced by Ella being asked by super-keen rookie half-back Nick Farr-Jones where he wanted his passes on the Slam tour. Ella replied “You throw ’em, I’ll catch ’em”.

    And, of course, he did. Brass could have said exactly the same words, for the same result.

    Impossible to split them.

    The most devastating defender?
    There are many contenders but only one standout: Simon Poidevin, a man of steel, as many opponents will testify.

    The longest kickers?
    Three standouts in Roger Gould, Laurie Monaghan, and Jim Lenehan. Nobody could have survived a boot up the backside from any of them.

    The left-footed Lenehan gets my nod with not only his length, but his accuracy.

    He was an incredible athlete as well, winning Wallaby selection to the UK and France the year after he left St Ignatius where he was first X1, and the extraordinary double of GPS shot put and hurdling champion – twice.

    The greatest full-back?
    This is the hardest of them all with Dick Tooth, Terry Casey, Roger Gould, and Matt Burke – all of them fantastic in their era. But I’ve gone for Burke in a close finish with Tooth. Burke gets there on his consistent goal-kicking.

    The greatest wingers?
    How can you go past David Campese and that famous goose-step that left so many worthy opponents looking a tad foolish, grasping at thin air. But for sheer poetry in motion, there was no greater sight than Brendan Moon in full flight.

    The greatest centres?
    A battle between Trevor Allan, John Solomon, and Tim Horan, covering 50 years of Wallaby rugby. Allan gets my vote as the top individual centre, although as a centre combination, there hasn’t been a better pairing than Horan and his lifelong mate, Jason Little.

    The greatest fly-half?
    Mark Ella, but that’s taking nothing away from Phil Hawthorne, Stephen Larkham, Michael Lynagh, and Nev Emery, the father of former Australian keeper and NSW skipper, Phi Emery. Nev always wanted to wear a baggy green, Phil a gold jersey, but fate decreed the opposite.

    The greatest halfback?
    Catchpole reigns supreme, just like Ella, with his ability to see things that haven’t happened or to make thing happen. His passing was dart-like, his defence very solid, just a great rugby man.

    He would have gone on for much longer had he not been cruelly torn apart by All Black Colin Meads, ending his career.

    Meads was never punished, and was in fact knighted well after his diabolical performance.

    Other 9s in the mix are Farr-Jones, John Hipwell, and Will Genia, when he’s on song.

    The greatest no 8?
    Mark Loane, and 40 years before him, Arthur Buchan. Both were great across the park, but Loane gets my nod for his consistency and power.

    The greatest flankers?
    The Wallabies have been blessed with many world-class 6s and 7s, with the likes of Col Windon, Keith Cross, Greg Davis, Greg Cornelsen, Simon Poidevin, and George Smith. But opponents give the answer, describing him as a man of steel: Simon Poidevin.

    The greatest locks?
    Two standouts in John Eales and Rob Heming – 50 years apart. Heming played in the no-lift lineout era, yet he could clap his hands above the crossbar every time from a cold start. They would have been unstoppable had they been able to team up.

    The greatest props?
    Topo Rodriguez, the king after his switch from a Puma to a Wallaby just before the Grand Slam tour of 1984. His combination with Andy McIntyre and Tommy Lawton was one of the most successful ever.

    So too the combo of Ewen McKenzie, Phil Kearns, and Tony Daly for the 1991 RWC success. The other standout prop of the 60s was Jon White, an 80-minute performer with immense strength,

    The greatest hookers?
    Peter Johnson of the 60s and Kearns, with the honours to Johnson in an era where hookers had a different role of import.

    And there you have it, bringing back many wonderful memories.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (158)

    • August 30th 2013 @ 6:44am
      krisl said | August 30th 2013 @ 6:44am | ! Report

      WilliO is probably the world greatest No. 6 and is not on this list…….. great article though.

      • August 31st 2013 @ 5:46pm
        Misha said | August 31st 2013 @ 5:46pm | ! Report

        Mead vs Catchpole

        ….There was no escaping discussion of the incident in Sydney in 1968 when he treated Ken Catchpole’s leg like a chicken wing. Australians still say Meads ended the marvellous scrum-half’s career.

        ‘Yes, they do. But Catchy played again after that. I played with him in Tonga, in fact, two or three New Zealanders joined a few Aussies, maybe three years later.’

        As Meads remembers it, he was told to stop Catchpole burrowing back into the pack after Waka Nathan had closed down the back of the line-out. ‘For Christ’s sake, put the little bastard on the ground,’ was the instruction from the sideline.

        ‘Sure enough, the little bugger ducked back in amongst us. I just reached in and grabbed one leg. I was going to tip him up. I didn’t know his other bloody leg was stuck at an angle. So he did the splits. Bloody sad. But I’d have probably done the same thing the next bloody day. I didn’t think I’d done anything that wrong.’

        What happened years later spoke volumes about Meads. He was invited to a dinner in Sydney in Catchpole’s honour but, two nights before the event, the organisers phoned him to say, ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t come over here because you’re going to get booed off the bloody stage.’

        Pinetree’s response? ‘Well, all the more reason why I should bloody come.’ He never ducked a challenge in his life… and they didn’t boo, either.

        • August 31st 2013 @ 7:00pm
          Seb Vettel said | August 31st 2013 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

          Meads = Legend.

    • Columnist

      August 30th 2013 @ 7:05am
      Geoff Parkes said | August 30th 2013 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      Thanks David.
      With every test match Kearns commentates, his legacy as a player is tarnished that little bit more.

      • August 30th 2013 @ 8:21am
        rugby_phile said | August 30th 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report


        • August 31st 2013 @ 12:54am
          bennalong said | August 31st 2013 @ 12:54am | ! Report

          Be more charitable

          It has nothing to do with it !

      • September 2nd 2013 @ 9:28am
        Glenn Condell said | September 2nd 2013 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        Oh leave him alone. The anti-Kearns brigade smells like a bandwagon to me. Our best hooker and one of the top half dozen forwards we’ve produced. The occasional groan caused by his commentary is a small price to pay. You need a boofy nationalistic blowhard in footy commentary (see NIsbet, G) to give it colour, they can’t all be Greg Clark.

    • August 30th 2013 @ 7:18am
      Bigbaz said | August 30th 2013 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      Always loved the Hipwell/Horton combo, maybe not the most talented but definitely the toughest.

    • August 30th 2013 @ 7:39am
      Johnno said | August 30th 2013 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      Lordy how can you mention Genia, when he’s on song but ignore Gregan when he’s on song. Gregan is still better under pressure than Genia. Gregan has had some average games when the pressure is on 2007 Q/F, but his forwards were struggling and it was old Gregan then. But Genia, young Genia struggled vs the Lion’s and the AB’s, and England at twickenham.
      Gregan played well vs the Lion’s and with a good pack matching the Lion;s in 2001, was able to get a lot of from foot ball. Genia really was found wanting in game 3.
      Alan Jones was the best thing that ever happened to Mark Ella’s career. Under Alan Jones, the Grand slam 1984 backline got going, as Alan Jones allowed Mark Ella to express himself with running rugby.Ella scored a try in every grand slam test in 1984 under Alan Jones as head coach. Dan Vickerman I think at his bet has proper claims to challenge John Eales. Vickerman is so aggressive, strong, good in the lineout, good around the park, intelligent, leads from the front. Vickerman I think would have been a wonderful wallaby captain if he’d stuck around rather than go to his Uni stuff at Cambridge.

      • August 30th 2013 @ 7:48am
        Bigbaz said | August 30th 2013 @ 7:48am | ! Report

        Agree with you Johno, if your a great your always “on song”.

        • Columnist

          August 30th 2013 @ 9:06am
          David Lord said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          On that basis Bigbaz, that automatically cuts out George Gregan.

          • August 30th 2013 @ 9:52am
            bigbaz said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:52am | ! Report

            Your right David but for his own rep and our sanity he should not have been selected after 03.

      • Columnist

        August 30th 2013 @ 9:20am
        David Lord said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        Johnno, you are very generous saying George Gregan had some average games, when he had a sackful between 2003 and 2007, and many before that. David Campese summed him up best, saying that tackle of All Black winger Jeff Wilson at the SFS in 1994 to win the Bledisloe was his crowning glory, and he’s lived off it for the rest of his life.

        Re Mark Ella, it was firstly Geoff Mould at Matraville High that gave Ella his open brief, honed further at Randwick by Bobby Dwyer, and rounded off by Alan Jones. The tragedy was Mark retiring at 25 after only 25 caps. what a waste of talent.

        And no argument about Dan Vickerman’s credentials, but well short of John Eales – every lock is.

        • August 30th 2013 @ 9:27am
          Johnno said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          Thanks David good points, stuff more stuff from the past I am glad to know.
          Vick’s has credentials, but Eales was one of true great players ever no debate there. And yep Gregan 2003-7 was rubbish., was being far to nice. Chris Whittaker was playing better rugby and should have got the gig, but Gregan a brumbies player was an Eddie Jones favourite and John Connolly it seems too.

          • Roar Guru

            August 31st 2013 @ 9:15am
            Mantis said | August 31st 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            are you saying the selectors were biased toward the brumbies?? heard it all now.

        • August 30th 2013 @ 10:16am
          grotto said | August 30th 2013 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Gregan was instrumental in all our Bledisloe wins each side of 2000. The forwards were rarely dominant over the All Blacks, and Gregan was always under pressure. Yet somehow, Larkham would be steaming onto a ball out in front. I’m not old enough to have watched Ella, but if he was that much better than Larkham, you must consider Ella to be even better than Dan Carter?

          Final word from me on Gregan. Lions tests, 2001. Have a look how much pressure he is under.

      • August 30th 2013 @ 10:08am
        The Electronic Swagman said | August 30th 2013 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        Let’s not slander anyone today. Post removed, thanks. Roar Mods.

      • September 1st 2013 @ 8:14am
        Dave said | September 1st 2013 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Sorry Johnno, I disagree. Geoff Mould was the best thing that ever happened to Mark Ella’s career.

    • Roar Guru

      August 30th 2013 @ 8:20am
      Argyle said | August 30th 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Good Topic Lordy,

      Props – mate can’t go with Topo. He was a great prop but after seeing him get popped whilst playing LHP for NSW against the vastly underrated Cameron Lillicrap circa 1987 at Ballymore and later in 1987 getting worked over by the All Blacks at Concord just excludes the likeable Argentine for me. My greatest Wallaby Props are; Jon White & Tony ‘Slaggy’ Miller and I’ll take Bill Cerutti on the bench.

      Hookers – I will go with Phil Kearns to start, with P.G.X Johnson on the bench.

      Locks – Eales and Hemming as you say with Giffin on the bench just over Vickermann, McCall, Williams and Crittle.

      Flankers – Smith & Offahengaue – with Col Windon on the bench.

      No:8 – Loane – with Kefu on the bench just over Gavin. Hard to leave Tim Gavin out; does anyone else recall his game against England in 1991 at the SFS. The Poms had Richards, Teague and Winterbottom and Gavin had a really strong game. At one stage the poms were well on the charge, Gavin did a bear hug style tackle on an Englishman from behind, turned him around and marched him up field – sheer strength that turned an English attack into an Australian attack with one tackle. Awesome player.

      Half – Catchpole all day and I’ll take Johnny Hipwell on the bench.

      10 – Ella and Larkham

      Wings – Campese and Moon with Ben Tune on the bench

      Centres – Horan and Herbert with Mick O’Connor on the bench

      15 – Burke and Gould

      Coach: Alan Jones

      • Columnist

        August 30th 2013 @ 8:48am
        David Lord said | August 30th 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        And good input from you Uncle, very interesting, we are almost on the same page which in a topic as widespread as this, is remarkable. By the way, the biggest bench in history.

        Can’t agree with you on Topo, or leaving Simon Poidevin out, or selecting Dan Herbert. I would prefer Michael Lynagh to partner Tim Horan, Mick O’Connor was a better league player than rugby.

        You’ve made another good point Uncle, I should have named the best Wallaby coach, so I’ll do that now – Rod Macqueen, Alan Jones, and Bobby Dwyer in that order.

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2013 @ 1:31pm
          Argyle said | August 30th 2013 @ 1:31pm | ! Report


          Is was tough to leave Michael Lynagh out over Bernie Larkham but the difference is Larkham was part of a Wallaby side that beat the BIL’s, Noddy was not. Both have RWC and Bledisloe, Noddy a Grand Slam, Bernie a 3N’s. Bernie by a Lions whisker Lordy.

          Mate Poido was a great player but Charlie Crittle called him “Venus De Milo” hard as, a masterpiece but had no arms! Poidiven did not possess a great passing game or possession game out wide like Smith or Willie – in my opinion.

          Herby – RWC, Bledisloe’s, 3N’s and a defeat of the BIL’s – not bad Lordy.

          Mick O’Connor – saw enough – Little, Slack, Mortlock unlucky.

          Now onto best rugby scribe; Frank O’…………..it 🙂

          Best Caller – ???? 🙂

          • Roar Guru

            August 30th 2013 @ 3:42pm
            sheek said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:42pm | ! Report


            I would have both Larkham & Lynagh in my own time 2nd XV (1969-present), playing beside each other at 10 & 12.

            • August 30th 2013 @ 10:51pm
              Ra said | August 30th 2013 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

              Sheek there are a couple of Aussie backs who played the All Blacks in the 1970s who I liked a lot, Paul McLean and Kenny Wright. McLean very much Mr Cool and Kenny Wright, the same weight as a wet tea towel, 0 – 100km in about 3 secs over 20m, very very electric.
              Willie O was the worst act of immigration racism overtly performed by the NZ government of the time, and he made NZ rugby pay dearly for that shocking and despicable act against a young fella who went away to represent our country.
              Willie O is my choice of Aussie loose forwards. His amazing raw power, strength and ball skills that NZ immigration turned away at the airport, assured the Aussie pack dominance or at least parity with or over the much vaunted Kiwi trio and in deed Kiwi pack at the time.
              The big Tongan boy had toured Australia with the NZ schoolboys team but was refused re-entry upon his return. He returned and was granted entry by Australia.
              My second rowers I loved to hate were Vickerman and Harrison. What a pair of mongrels. Great guys, no back step. The newbies could watch videos of them two, ugly and tough, and probably nice blokes too

              • August 31st 2013 @ 9:30am
                Justin3 said | August 31st 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

                Ken Wright has the best step I have ever seen, it was from the gods.

              • Roar Guru

                August 31st 2013 @ 10:26am
                sheek said | August 31st 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

                Hi Ra,

                No argument with some of those names.

                McLean & Wright are right out of my time, both within a few years of my own age, both wonderful players.

                Of course, I can only pick XV players at any one time. Nevertheless, I rate both players very highly. I would rank the #10s as follows – Ella, Larkham, Lynagh, Mclean, Wright, Melrose.

                All high quality players.

                Ditto Willie O.

                Back then he was a godsend, providing the Wallaby pack with a physical aggression that seemed to be missing. These days I’m not so enamoured with the influx of islanders into Australia rugby.

                Even with some Australian born islanders, there is a suspicion as to just how deeply they see themselves as Australians, or whether being a Wallaby is merely a flag of convenience.

                Perhaps we misintrepret the pride they display in their heritage. But it does send mixed messages.

                I never felt that with Willie O, who appeared gnuinely appreciative of the opportunity to wear the green & gold. Ditto Illie Tabua & a few others.

                But today I’m not so sure about the genuine loyalty of islanders in Australian teams. Like I said, perhaps we misintrepret the pride towards heritage.

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2013 @ 3:40pm
          sheek said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

          Hi David,

          I’m inclined to view Poidevin in a similar vein to Gregan. Both were great rugby players, but not necessarily great technically in their position.

          In Poido’s case, he was obviously intensely aggressive & competitive. There’s no doubt about that!

          However, I’m inclined to prefer guys like Smith & Corny, & even Pricey, who had more skills but an equally high workrate. Of course, Pricey matched Poido’s aggression too.

      • Roar Guru

        August 30th 2013 @ 10:46am
        Mick Gold Coast QLD said | August 30th 2013 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        So many excellent players in those times – I prefer Topo and Johnson; agree on Catchpole, Hipwell and Farr-Jones with daylight fourth; and favour Jason Little with his beautifully balanced running.

        Isn’t Slaggy Miller still going around? 🙂 The great man died way too young.

        As devastating as he could be Willie Offahengaue clocked off during matches a bit too often for mine.

        I’m drawn to just two points, well made David.

        ”Simon Poidevin, a man of steel”

        Indubitably, both with the tough as can be John Maxwell at Randwick and against a splendid array of unforgiving All Black back rowers in his time – the extraordinary Michael Jones, Buck Shelford, Alan Whetton, Zinzan and Brewer. He never stopped going hard and had great physical and mental strength.

        ”The best pair of hands? Shared by Ella and dual-international John Brass.”

        I found a tape of John Brass in action years back and made a point of using it to demonstrate to the young players just how much was to be gained from the ball going straight through the hands without interruption. He was outstanding with his ability to move onto the ball at speed and then shift it swiftly, effortlessly to the next man. Some modern players stop and heft the thing as if it is a 40 pound pumpkin, to their great disadvantage.

        • August 30th 2013 @ 11:20pm
          Ra said | August 30th 2013 @ 11:20pm | ! Report

          I don’t remember willie o clocking off against us Mick. Hr did clock us a few tines though

      • August 30th 2013 @ 1:28pm
        Tane Mahuta said | August 30th 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

        Coach Allan Jones!!!?
        Give me strength. Youd be better off with Eddie Jones.

      • August 30th 2013 @ 3:27pm
        rich1612 said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

        Uncle, I was at that game one of the best from the Wallabies.

        I believe it set them up to win the 1991 WC, tragedy Gavin was injured in that match and didn’t get to the WC

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2013 @ 3:29pm
          Argyle said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

          Hey Rich,

          mate I thought he did it playing for Easts a short time after but could be wrong.

          • Roar Guru

            August 30th 2013 @ 3:53pm
            Mick Gold Coast QLD said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            That’s my recollection. We were so disappointed because he was playing well at the time and it was a real shame for Gavin.

      • Roar Guru

        August 30th 2013 @ 3:33pm
        sheek said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:33pm | ! Report


        We need context here.

        In 1987 Topo was 35 and coming to the end of his career. Crappers was 24 & approaching his peak years. There’s no doubt Topo was very special. So was Crappers for that matter.

        Topo told me in conversation that his playing secret was endurance strength. A bigger, stronger opponent might trouble him the first 30 minutes, but he would dominate the remaining 50 minutes. Remember, this is pre-replacements (barring injury).

        I thought that made sense, when in those days everyone played 80 minutes barring injury.

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2013 @ 3:43pm
          Argyle said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

          Mate I would rate Topo over Crappers but the fact a LHP got popped says much, especially when we recall the scrums of the 1980’s Sheek. Slaggy was 37 and still dusting up the Poms with an infected toe in 1967 remember? And Jon White was and remains world class. I’ve talked to a few blokes who played with him and they still rate him above any of the modern blokes. Apparently in Africa in 63 he pulled off a covering tackle on an open side winger, maybe Englebrecht who was due to score but J White had broken from the THP position and covered to the post and chopped him down. Pretty amazing stuff!

          • Roar Guru

            August 30th 2013 @ 3:56pm
            sheek said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:56pm | ! Report


            It’s interesting to note that both White & Thornett began their senior careers in the backrow, moving to the second row & ending up in the frontrow. Simply wouldn’t happen today.

            I will have to check, but for the tour of SA in 1963, White was in his first test season at prop, while Thornett was still considered a lock.

            Slaggy Miller (another ex-lock) was unavailable to tour & when some of the designated props were either injured or failed to fire, Thornett moved into the frontrow alongside White & Johnson.

            The rest, as they say, was history.

        • September 2nd 2013 @ 9:41am
          Glenn Condell said | September 2nd 2013 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          I can recall Topo and other Wallabies at the time were doing particular exercises Dwyer had found, called something like ‘plyometrics’, which involved exercising the back and core muscles by getting the body into unusual positions and doing intensive repeat movements, to strengthen the myriad little muscles and nerves of the lower back and upper legs. Seemed to go out of fashion, about the time creatine made its first appearance…

    • Roar Guru

      August 30th 2013 @ 8:55am
      biltongbek said | August 30th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      For me the tim Horan and Jason Little combination was Australia’s most deadly centre pairing, intelligence, pace and power wirh great interplay from Horan to Little.

      I must admit though my favourite Australian player of all time is Chris Lathem, I still have vivid memories of him at the back wirh his socks always at his ankles, to me the epitome of what a fullback should be.

      Unforuntely for me my lasting impression of Capese will always be the 1995 RWC opening game when Pieter Hendriks ran onto Campo, jinked right then accelerated left to flank him on the outside, fist pumping the air whilst Campo was sprawling in the grass.

      • Columnist

        August 30th 2013 @ 9:00am
        David Lord said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Evening biltong, don’t often disagree with you, but how many opponents did David Campese leave sprawling on the grass during his stellar career? Far more than Pieter Hendriks.

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2013 @ 9:13am
          biltongbek said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          No doubt David, but remember Campo’s career was just about done and dusted by the time we came back into ibternational rugby. So I doubt I saw 20% of his tries he scored in his career.

          • Roar Guru

            August 30th 2013 @ 3:02pm
            sheek said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:02pm | ! Report


            I also saw Campo score his 50th test try at Newlands in 1992, after Tim Horan had harassed Danie Gerber of possesion.

            However, it didn’t affect my opinion of Gerber, who was 34 at the time. i was just priveleged the Wallabies had the opportunity to play one test against him.

            Neither should Saffies forget Campo was nearing the end of his career in 1995. Hendriks wouldn’t have done that to Campo at the peak of his career. Maybe with an overlap (like John Kirwan), but rarely one on one.

            • Roar Guru

              August 30th 2013 @ 3:28pm
              sheek said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:28pm | ! Report


              I made a point of familiarising myself with the famous Boks of the 1980s, who were little seen by the outside world.

              Ironically, the Boks had one of their best backlines in the 1980s.

              Let’s just wind the clock back to 1984. Naas Botha was away in the US trying out with Dallas Cowboys.

              9- Divan Serfontein. Perhaps among the best half-dozen Boks scrumhalfs.

              10-Errol Tobias. First black player to rep Boks. he was 34 in 1984! What a wasted genius. At least we got to see a bit of him.

              11-Carel du Plessis. The “Prince of Wingers”. He was good, damn good. The youngest of three brothers, the others being willie & Michael.

              12-Michael du Plessis. The middle brother & described as a brooding genius. Incredibly versatile.

              13-Danie Gerber. Surely the greatest cntre produced by SA.

              14-Ray Mordt. Along with Carel, arguably SA’s bestever wing combo.

              15-John Heunis. Again, perhaps among the top half-dozen Boks fullbacks.

              Other backline greats include the afore-mentioned Naas & Willie (eldest du Plessis brother), evergreen winger Gerrie Germishuys, livewire fullback Gysie Pienaar.

              These guys really could run the ball!

              • Roar Guru

                August 30th 2013 @ 5:27pm
                biltongbek said | August 30th 2013 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

                Hi sheek, the problem is when we were in isolation we saw literally no rugby from overseas.

                We didn’t see the 1987 RWC, we didn’t see the 1991 RWC, the golden era of OZ rugby in the late eighties and early nineties is a dark black hole for us.

              • Roar Guru

                August 30th 2013 @ 6:02pm
                biltongbek said | August 30th 2013 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

                I remember old Gerrie, by memory he was a teacher, could run like the wind (he lost his hair because of it) but couldn’t tackle a wet paper bag.

                I met Carel a number of times, the woman I worked with went crazy about him, quite stately and reserved.

                Ray Mordt to me still the ultimate right wing coming out of SA, he was actually Rhodesian, Johan Heunis had an incredible boot on him, he played in the golden era of Bulls rugby, Michael du Plessis was a more approachable personality than his brother Carel, never met Willie.

                Divan we class.

                but yeah, we lost out on a lot because of the reigning political party at the time.

            • Roar Guru

              August 30th 2013 @ 3:33pm
              Argyle said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

              I recall Willie O having a pretty strong game that day if my memory serves me well.

          • August 30th 2013 @ 3:03pm
            Dsat24 said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

            BB I have to add here you missed out on seeing some great running rugby if this is the case, ie you only saw him at the end of his career. I saw him play at Randwick on a few occasions where of course he had more time than a test match, but he pretty much just toyed with his opposite. One saturday I saw him turn in the face of his opposite run towards his own tryline to lose his opposite and then after shaking him turn again and run for a try. Honestly you had to see it to believe it. As an aside it has been said that Geoff Wilson when first on the scene was a David Campese type player.

            • August 30th 2013 @ 3:21pm
              Dsat24 said | August 30th 2013 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

              yeh as always a good point dsat24
              Campese was greatly respected in the kiwi rugby community during his career in similar way to ‘Nobody’ but perhaps not quite to the same level, but again perhaps more universally than in Australia.

            • September 2nd 2013 @ 9:45am
              Glenn Condell said | September 2nd 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

              Would love to have been there the times Campo and Latho played together for the Greens, probably with Lloyd Walker creating mayhem inside them…

      • August 30th 2013 @ 9:05am
        Johnno said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        Campo was well past it, when Pieter Hnedricks did that. He was dropped for Bledisloe 1 in 1995, only to be recalled to the bench when Rod Kafer broke down at training. Campo did tackle Jonah Lomu in his prime 1 on 1. But to the Boks credit Lomu never scored 1 try vs them. Zero.

        • August 30th 2013 @ 9:53am
          Firstxv said | August 30th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          Thats because the entire gameplan was based on stopping Lomu- certainly the 95 final was.
          I’d go for Eales. Player, leader and match winning goal kicker. Would rate in the top handful of locks of all time. No other Oz player would- certainly not Ella. Without 84 he didnt do a lot, including losing to the ABs either side of that tour.

          Campo had fantastic skills with ball in hand and his battles with JK were legendary…

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