Rating every Springboks player from their 2023 Rugby World Cup triumph

Jared Wright
South Africa's players celebrate with the winner's trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup final match between against New Zealand at the Stade de France.

South Africa's players celebrate with the winner's trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup final match between against New Zealand at the Stade de France.

Following the completion of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, we take a look back at the performances of the Springboks and rate each squad member’s tournament.

South Africa became just the second nation to win back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles, with Jacques Nienaber’s side narrowly winning each of their knockout stage matches by a single point.

We run through their team, rating each player out of a possible 10, with their contributions in the tournament’s defining moments factoring heavily into our scores.

Outside backs

Damian Willemse: Established himself as the starting full-back during the tournament and impressed in doing so. He added energy when required but was also solid under the high ball and defended well. The double World Cup winner still has a very long Test career ahead of him. 8

Willie le Roux: Nearing the end of his career, but he still offered plenty of value to the side, picking up three try assists and two tries of his own. He played a great supporting role for the Boks and added some calm and control in those close knockout matches. 7

Makazole Mapimpi: He had lost his place in the starting XV entering the tournament but made a splash in the clash against Romania, scoring a hat-trick. Mapimpi looked eager to force his way back into the spotlight and played well in his minutes, but a facial injury ended his tournament in the final pool stage match. 6

Cheslin Kolbe: Known for his sensational footwork and try-scoring capabilities, Kolbe dotted down just twice in his five matches but still made a telling impact. His charge down on Thomas Ramos in the quarters proved pivotal, while his defensive performances stifled multiple attacks throughout the play-offs. 8

Kurt-Lee Arendse: The Bulls flyer had a similar tournament to Kolbe, grabbing two tries. But his defensive alertness and ability under the high ball was crucial for the side. He also produced a stunning try-saving tackle on Rieko Ioane in the final, reminiscent of JP Pietersen’s effort in 2007 at the same stadium. 8


Damian de Allende: Brutally effective with and without the ball this tournament, as he has been for most of his Springboks career. Landed a superb 10 dominant tackles and regularly drew in more than one defender with his carries. His combination with Jesse Kriel was a driving force in the Boks’ run to the title. 8

Andre Esterhuizen: Made the most of the opportunities that he got and was a driving force as the Boks cruised to victories against Romania and Tonga. He still has plenty of Test caps ahead of him. 8

Canan Moodie: He showed plenty of promise in his two matches, but an injury hampered his momentum. A 100+ Test cap international in waiting. 6

Jesse Kriel: Simply outstanding. He slotted in seamlessly after Lukhanyo Am’s injury and was a linchpin in the Boks’ world class defence. He is finally getting the plaudits his game deserves. 9

Lukhanyo Am: The only player from the 35 called into the squad who did not play as he trained with the side after Mapimpi’s injury. N/A


Cobus Reinach: Almost beat his own record for the quickest hat-trick in a Rugby World Cup match, dotting down three times against Romania. He didn’t have his finest game against England, but he was excellent against France and during the pool stages. 7

Faf de Klerk: Whether as an impact player or starter, it was another influential tournament for the livewire scrum-half, who had some match-defining moments in the big games, particularly on defence. His ankle taps on Charles Ollivon and Dalton Papali’i will be replayed countless times. 8

Grant Williams: Scored a brace against Romania and did not disappoint in his shifts on the wing, flexing his versatility. He made a wonderful break against Scotland, too, and is one to keep an eye on. 7

Jaden Hendrikse: He got just over an hour of action between his cameos off the bench against Romania and Tonga. Assisted two tries against the latter, as he was solid without setting the world alight after a torrid run of injuries. 6

Handre Pollard: A heroic return to the squad after initially being left out. He was brought back for his goal-kicking and did not disappoint, nailing all 13 of his attempts. He may have been a bit shaky on defence, but his tactical kicking was on point, and he dragged the Boks over the line in the semi-final against England and scored all of South Africa’s points in the final a week later. 9

Manie Libbok: Produced one of the moments of the pool stages with a gorgeous no-look kick pass for Arendse’s try against Scotland. He did have a bit of a nightmare against England and had struggles off the tee, but he was otherwise excellent throughout the tournament and has a bright future in Green and Gold. 7

Loose forwards

Duane Vermeulen: A glorious way for the veteran to bow out after a stellar career. His final outing was a microcosm of his career; making bulking carries, was sound defensively and made smart, accurate decisions while also lending a hand as a leader of the side. That was very much on brand with his form during the tournament, too, as the Springbok great made the most of his final few matches. 7

Siya Kolisi: It was remarkable in itself that the inspirational captain featured in the tournament at all after a rapid recovery from a knee injury. While he saw very little ball in hand, he was astute on defence, posting the joint-most dominant tackles (10) in the tournament. He wasn’t quite at his absolute best but pretty close to it. 7

Pieter-Steph du Toit: A truly sensational tournament from the ever-present workhorse blindside flanker, who reminded the world of his world-class status. He will go down as one of the greatest Bok flankers, and rightly so. He produced a masterclass in tackling against New Zealand in the final and played at his usual high standard in the pool stages and knockouts. 9

Kwagga Smith: An outrageously good campaign from the Springboks’ ‘battle stats king’. He topped the turnover count in the tournament with 10, despite starting just once at the World Cup. He came alive in the knockout games, winning match-defining moments for his side, including three turnovers in the final and a match-winning penalty against France. 9

Jasper Wiese: A somewhat quieter World Cup than many predicted, but the abrasive number eight was still solid in his appearances. 6

Marco van Staden: One start and three appearances off the bench in the pool stages of the tournament as the flanker and emergency hooker made his World Cup debut after narrowly missing out four years ago. He impressed on both sides of the ball when he did get his opportunities and was surprisingly strong while scrummaging at hooker. 7


Eben Etzebeth: Produced an absolute blinder against France when South Africa needed it the most. He was similarly excellent against Scotland and Ireland and again in the final. He was one of the side’s best, as he led the charge in all facets of the game. 9

Franco Mostert: He often flies under the radar, but it was another superb run of form from the tireless second-rower. He did not miss a single tackle throughout the knockout stages and was excellent in running the lineout. 8

Marvin Orie: He was hailed for his training ground efforts by his teammates but got just 100 minutes on the pitch. He did manage three lineout steals in that time, and overall, he was solid. 6

Jean Kleyn: What a ride for the second-rower who realised his dream of representing South Africa after giving up on it when he played for Ireland four years ago. He put in handy shifts in each of his three appearances. 7

RG Snyman: After his horrid run of injuries between World Cups, he was back at his best at the perfect time. He was a key cog in the Bomb Squad machine, particularly when he scored a pivotal try in the semi-final against England. 8


Trevor Nyakane: Anchored his side of the scrum in every match he appeared in this campaign, particularly when scrummaging with the likes of Deon Fourie and Van Staden inside of him. He will be grateful to have got another shot at the World Cup after his injury in the first game last time around. 6

Vincent Koch: A knee injury hampered his tournament, but he managed to come right to deliver two monumental shifts off the bench against France and England, both crucial in the result of the matches. 7

Frans Malherbe: The cornerstone of the Springbok pack, and he proved it yet again as he solidified the tighthead side of the scrum. He got through a ton of work around the park, too, and was consistently solid for the side. 8

Steven Kitshoff: By his lofty standards, it was an under-par tournament for the loosehead prop but by no means a poor one. He was still strong in the set-pieces but was pinged at the breakdown more than usual. Solid but not his best. 6

Ox Nche: What a tournament it was for the cake-loving loosehead who, along with Koch, saved the Boks from a semi-final exit to England after doing the same a week before against France. He was sublime in the set-pieces and can probably thank Kitshoff for some of his success in softening up the opposing tighthead for him. Another important member of the Bomb Squad. 8

Deon Fourie: Picked as a flanker and emergency hooker for the tournament, the veteran answered the SOS in the front-row more often than he would have expected. He filled the role well and, in the final, had one of his career-best games after replacing Bongi Mbonambi early on. He was superb at the breakdown, made an unbelievable carry that led to Snyman’s try against England, and made a tremendous 20 tackles in the final. 9

Malcolm Marx: After a standout performance against Scotland in the opening game, heartbreak struck for the hooker whose tournament was ended by a knee injury. He still picked up his second World Cup medal but would have loved to stay until the end. 6

Bongi Mbonambi: The hooker’s workload went through the roof after Marx’s injury. He thrived with the extra responsibilities not only as the only out-and-out hooker in the squad but also with his added input as a leader in the side and captained the Boks in the latter stages of matches. He was cruelly injured in the final for a second tournament in a row but was immaculate before then. 8

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