Legends - Os du Randt

Okay, so maybe there is one legendary South African who managed to end his career in a major final – and bow out on the winning side. Jacobus Petrus du Randt, known as Os (Ox) throughout his career, played his last game for the Springboks on the night they beat England 15-6 at Stade de Francais in Paris to win the World Cup for the second time.

Du Randt had been a key member of the previous Springbok team to have won it, under Francois Pienaar on South African soil in 1995, so he joined a small group of players who have won rugby’s greatest prize twice – Dan Crowley, Phil Kearns, John Eales, Tim Horan and Jason Little (all of those Australia, but not all of whom started in both finals that the Wallabies won).

Hailing initially from the small Eastern Cape town of Elliot (the same as another legendary Springbok, Mark Andrews), Du Randt had first been selected for the national team when Kitch Christie took charge of the Boks for the first time in a home series against Argentina in late 1994. Du Randt did not take long to make his mark, and by the end of the tour of Wales, Scotland and Ireland that followed, he was the established first choice No1.

Du Randt continued to make a big contribution to a solid Bok scrum into 1995, and with Balie Swart propping up the other side, the powerfully built Free Stater was one of the unsung heroes of a gutsy winning effort against the French on a sodden Kings Park in that year’s World Cup semi-final. The Boks had to survive a series of five metre scrums at a crucial stage of the game, but they stood firm.

The scrum also played a perhaps understated role in the final, and anyone who disagrees should just take a look at the video of that Ellis Park match and be reminded of where the most crucial Bok plays that day came from. Certainly it was because his team did not have much front foot ball to play with that the influential Jonah Lomu, who had terrorized all the other teams in that tournament, was so less formidable when it mattered.

Du Randt went on to play some great rugby in the following years, and apart from his World Cup successes he was also able to get his hands on two Tri-Nations trophies (1998 and 2004). While the Boks bowed out of the 1999 World Cup at the semi-final stage at the hands of Australia, Du Randt stood tall and was named by the respected Rugby World magazine as the second best loosehead prop of all time.

Du Randt said in an interview once that he would never have dreamed he would bow out of rugby as part of a winning effort in a World Cup as at the beginning of last decade he was plagued by injuries and even gave up the game.

He was persuaded to come out of retirement in 2003 by the then Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus, but he was not intending to go further than that. It was only at the behest of Jake White, when he became Bok coach in 2004, that Du Randt, against the background of criticism from a media that regarded him as too old, made himself available for the national team.

And so began the second part of the Du Randt story, and the making of the Du Randt legend. As CJ van der Linde, his front-row partner in the 2007 final, put it “Os is a legend, even little children know he is”. Os was in inspired form in his last game for the Boks, and even put in a first half strong bullocking run that reminded some observers of the much younger model circa 1995.

Du Randt ended his career with 80 caps (he scored five tries) but that did not tell the story of his immense contribution to the Boks over three separate World Cups.