x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Heinrich Brussow - a small man with a big heart

The Springboks' loose forward may be short in stature, but he certainly gets the job done.

Heinrich Brussow may be the smallest man in the South Africa pack, but the openside flanker could well be the most influential player in the team as the Springboks prepare to defend their Rugby World Cup crown.

Brussow, who stands just 1.80m (5ft 11ins) tall, is something of an anomaly in Springbok rugby which, traditionally, has been obsessed with size.

If one considers that Brussow's likely loose forward partners, Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger, are both comfortably over 1.90m, it shows how hard Brussow has had to work just to force himself into international contention.

That he has thrived on the international stage is testament to his skill in the breakdown and the different dimension he has brought to the Springboks which had relied, for the most part, on tall ball-carriers and line-out options in their mix.

Brussow has a simple view of his role in the team. "A fetcher's job is to be in the opposition's faces, slow ball down, make a lot of tackles and make sure your team gets quick and good ball and that is my main focus," he said during this year's Tri Nations.

Brussow, 25, made his Test debut off the bench against England at Twickenham in 2008 but he made his mark on the international stage against the British & Irish Lions in 2009 as South Africa clinched a 2-1 series win.

The Bloemfontein-born loose forward, who enjoys fishing and hunting during his downtime, then played a pivotal role as the Springboks secured the Tri Nations title in the same year.

Brussow's career has been dogged by injury and he missed the entire 2010 international season, and a large part of this year's Super Rugby tournament, because of injuries.

But his importance to the Springboks was underlined when Peter de Villiers, the coach, had no qualms in thrusting Brussow straight back into the Tri Nations despite his lack of playing time.

Brussow was considered man of the match for the Springboks in their 18-5 victory over New Zealand in their final Tri Nations encounter, constantly slowing down the All Blacks' ball and effecting turnovers.

The key will be whether he is able to repeat the feat against Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain, who did not play in Port Elizabeth, and Australia's David Pocock and nullify their impact should the teams meet in the World Cup.