We’re three days away from the 2023 Rugby World Cup and SARugbymag.co.za praises the standout tighthead props who have anchored the Springbok scrum at rugby’s showpiece tournament.
Picked by Kitch Christie ahead of formidable tightheads such as Tommie Laubscher and Keith Andrews, Swart played in only 16 Tests between 1993 and 1996, but he was a powerhouse for the Boks in his four starts during the 1995 World Cup.
In the final, Swart, together with hooker Chris Rossouw and a young Os du Randt, put the highly fancied All Blacks front row of Craig Dowd, Sean Fitzpatrick and Olo Brown under huge pressure, laying the foundation for the historic Bok win.
He might be best remembered for one of the most bizarre send-offs, the former Lions prop getting his marching orders from Andre Watson in a 1998 clash after showing the referee the red card, but Swart’s ’95 heroics cannot be underestimated.
CJ van der Linde
For 10 years and 75 Tests between 2002 and 2012, Van der Linde stood up to every test that came his way. He was a rock of the Bok pack in 2007, often partnered with John Smit and Du Randt in the front row.
Van der Linde was a versatile asset in that he could scrum on either side and offered impressive mobility for a large man, with ball-playing skills to match. Explosive off the mark, the burly Free Stater made quality contributions as a carrier and ruck custodian.
In the 2007 final in Paris, Van der Linde stood up to and scrummed aggressively against England monster Andrew Sheridan, and his superior all-round game proved a handful for the English.
Malherbe’s panda-like appearance belies one of the world’s great tighthead props and a player with an unbelievable work rate on defence.
A technical scrum master, the unsung Malherbe works like a python, suffocating the life out of set-piece opponents.
He has been SA’s first-choice tighthead in the Rassie Erasmus era, starting the 2019 World Cup final and laying the platform for the 2021 British & Irish Lions series win in the Republic.
The barrel-chested Malherbe had to play second fiddle initially to Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen at the 2015 World Cup, but the shock opening defeat to Japan saw the Stormers star brought on to the bench for the rest of the pool stages.
While you won’t find Malherbe on advertising billboards, his value to the Bok cause and title defence in France will be immense.
Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP