Die Doring van Despatch

In the book “The Chosen” written by Andy Colquhoun and Paul Dobson, Danie Gerber was selected as the greatest Springbok ever. Well, one cannot argue with facts…

Danie Gerber

As a youngster growing up in the western suburbs of Johannesburg in the 1980’s, only one player really mattered. Naas Botha. He was the hero of Loftus and the hero of this writer for many many years. Only later in my life did I realize that the greatest Springbok ever actually came from a small town in the Eastern Cape, Despatch.

Danie Gerber was born on 14 April 1958 and after representing Eastern Province in the Craven week, he initially made his name at Orange Freestate where he represented the “Blikore” 24 times before moving back to Eastern Province where his legend grew. After missing out on the British Lions series in 1980, Danie made his inevitable debut against South America on 18 October 1980 in Montevideo, Uruguay. As expected, he scored a brilliant try and scored another in the second test a week later. Together with Naas Botha, Willie du Plessis and Ray Mordt, they tore the Jaguars to pieces and showcased their brilliance on attack.

In 1981 the Irish visited our shores and Danie himself has described the first test at Newlands as probably the best test he has ever played. He was everywhere and scored two fantastic tries, the second of which will fondly be remembered as he caused two Irishmen to run into each other trying to tackle him as he glided through their defenses.

1981 will also be remembered for the Springbok tour to New Zealand which was marred by demonstrators and made the tour a difficult one. Danie didn’t score any tries, but he was on the lips of all the New Zealanders who saw him play. I had the great privilege to have spent a weekend with Danie and his family in December 2011. He told me that he was in New Zealand earlier that year for the Rugby World Cup and people on the street in Wellington still recognized him from that 1981 tour. Such was his impact and it goes to show – true fans never forget the legends of the game.

Danie hit a purple patch of form between 1982 and 1986 and he was undoubtedly the best centre on the planet. After scoring a hat trick against the Jaguars at Loftus Versfeld in 1982, he did so again against England in 1984. He was red hot, and the world knew it… Unfortunately, isolation from international competition meant that Danie had limited opportunities to showcase his power, pace and killer side step. In May 1986 he did get an opportunity, together with Naas Botha, Flippie van der Merwe, Schalk Burger Snr and Carel du Plessis to show the world what South African rugby players were made of.

They were invited to participate in a centenary match at Twickenham between a Five Nations XV and a Southern Hemisphere XV. Danie scored two tries, Carel another and all five players shone in a great display of running rugby. Later that year Danie would again shine in a magnificent Springbok back line against the New Zealand Cavaliers. A series the Boks won 3-1, although most New Zealand supporters will consider this a non event. Danie scored one of the greatest Bok tries in the third test at Loftus Versfeld.

Continued isolation and some injuries meant that Danie didn’t play for the Springboks again until 1992 when South Africa re-entered the international rugby scene. On 15 August 1992, South Africa made it’s comeback against our arch rivals, New Zealand at Ellispark. Danie was already 34 at the time and wasn’t the first choice to play at centre. Brendan Venter was originally at the front of the pecking order, but broke his leg playing for Freestate against the Allblacks and that opened the door for Danie after a very strong performance by him in the trials in July.

He didn’t disappoint. He scored two of his best tries that day and showed the world what it missed in the 1980’s. He ran with the same pace, power and enthusiasm as he did in 1980 and was still just as potent on attack. He played another 4 tests in 1992 against Australia, France and England before retiring from international rugby at the end of the season.

Danie Gerber 2

Danie played a couple of seasons for L’Aquilla in Italy before finally retiring at 37. In 1995 he played his last game on South African soil when he represented a Danie Craven XV against a World XV at Stellenbosch. He again scored, created opportunities and tore the defense to shreds. Class, as they say, is permanent.

He later went on to coach at the Pumas in Witbank before moving back to Port Elizabeth where he currently resides. In 2007 he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame and in 2015, he was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. The famous Scottish commentator Bill McClaren named Danie in his greatest ever XV and Dr. Danie Craven named Danie as one of the five greatest players of all time.


To this day, I still get excited when I look at old footage of Danie in his prime, the only other two players who ever made me sit up when they touched the ball were David Campese and Christian Cullen. I doubt whether we will ever see another player of his caliber. He was a once in a lifetime type of player who will simply be remembered as – The Best Ever.



  1. Danie’s try in the 3rd test against the Cavaliers mentioned above is still to this day my favorite Bok try of all time.

  2. The best ever! I grew up as a child watching Danie & between him, Ray Mordt & Carel du Plessis they made the game beautiful
    If Danie had to play in the pro era Im sure they had to break banks open to pay for his contract.
    Imagine there was no isolation and he played 100 tests between 1981 to 1992, with his strike rate of 18 tries in 24 tests that would have been 75 tries.

    • I had the opportunity to meet Danie a couple of years ago and one thing people don’t know about him is that he said no to a lot of money to go and play Rugby League in England. He stayed, just to play for the Springboks one last time. He would have made a fortune today. What a legend.

  3. Awesome – thanks for this beautiful tribute from Danie Gerber. We do appreciate!! Can you please forward the article to our mail address.

    • Ek’s bly jy het dit geniet doring! Ek sal die artikel vir jou e-pos asook ‘n link na die video toe. Groete daar, Werner


    • Danie was so goed in daai game op StellenboschvoorWC dat ek en baie ander gedink het hy kon dalk nog die Bok squad gemaak het. veral games teen minnows.

  5. goeie artikel. Danie was great. Hy en Tim Horan sal my ultimate senter paar ooit wees. Terloops, ek stem saam met jou laaste punt van Campo en Cullen, maar Carel, prins van Vleuels, het my ook so laat voel

    • Dankie vir die terugvoer Kevin. Ek stem, ek sou ook vir Horan langs Gerber wou sien. Terloops, ons is besig met ‘n reeks videos oor die top tien internasionale spelers in elke posisie, so kyk uit vir dit oor die volgende paar maande

  6. Van Schoor renowned for his tackling and Tjol Lategan remembered mostly for the try he scored in a concussed state against Scotland. I don’t think there was enough speed in this combination to be rated as the best ever but they combined well and were effective and instrumental with regard to the success of that particular team. 

  7. As far as I know, the last match Danie played in South Africa was for the ’95 Boks Invitational side vs Golden Lions invitation XV on the 15th July 2000 at Ellis Park. He still showed some of his old power in that match which the ’95 Boks won 42-14. He also scored a try.

  8. As a New Zealander, I guess I have trouble looking past All Black players, but, I have to admit Danie Gerber was the best centre if not the best Rugby player I have ever seen. Absolute dynamite on two feet.
    I was also impressed with another Springbok – Mannetjies Roux. Not bad for a shortie and the consummate tackler.

  9. What an amazing talent, best player in my books. Miss the tries of the real rugby games. Today rugby dead boring. Professionalism and rules killed the game.


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