Your dream British & Irish Lions XV of all-time has been picked – but which players stand the best chance of toppling them? Here we look at the stand-out Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies at each position, with the next installment of this series looking at the blindside flankers: tell us who you think should make the team, we’ll add up the votes and publish the all-time SANZAR XV, as selected by the fans.
They make them big in South Africa, they always have for some reason.
So it comes as no surprise to learn that it is the Springboks that dominate the list when looking for the greatest blindside flanker to take on the British & Irish Lions.
Indeed only four years ago one of the all-time greats in Juan Smith was at the forefront of a South Africa side that held off the Lions for a 2-1 series win.
The flanker, who recently returned from retirement to play in the Top 14 with Toulon, was a key figure for that series win and indeed the World Cup win two years earlier.
Andre Venter is another Springbok blindside, maybe not with some of the finesse that Smith would later bring to the role.
But Venter more than made up for a lack of subtlety with brute force and a never-say-die attitude that saw him win 66 international caps in a much-acclaimed international career.
Another great Springbok No.6 was Francois Pienaar, forever immortalised for captaining their historic 1995 World Cup victory but the flanker never got to play against the Lions in his illustrious career.
One World Cup winner who did take on the Lions however was Owen Finnegan, the Aussie No.6 who scored a try in the 1999 World Cup final.
Finnegan started all three Tests in the 2001 series against Martin Johnson’s tourists and formed a formidable flanker pairing with George Smith.
The Wallabies came from behind to turn the tide in that series and Finnegan’s unseen mastery of the dark arts on the blindside were invaluable as the series progressed.
Steve Tuynman, a versatile Australian who also featured at No.8 and on the openside for his country, was the Aussie No.6 in their 1989 series.
And although the Lions won that series it was not down to Tuynman who flourished with the No.6 jersey on his back.
The Kiwis might be more renowned for their openside greats but that does not mean their No.6s are not also worth consideration.
The legend that is Jerry Collins started all three Tests in the ‘Blackwash’ of 2005 while Jamie Joseph was key to their series win in 1993.
And that is without mentioning Ian Kirkpatrick, a man equally adept on both the blind and opensides for the Kiwis in the 70s and Mark Shaw who was so impressive in 1983.