The greatest centres of all time: Danie Gerber
Danie Gerber is often referred to as one of the greatest centres to play the game. It was South Africa's spell in the sporting wilderness, that prevented him from being a household name
Major teams: Eastern Province, Western Province
Country: South Africa
Test span: 1980-92
Test caps: 24 (24 starts)
Test points: 82 (19T, 1C)
From Eastern Province, Gerber emerged on the international scene in 1980, just missing that year’s tour of South Africa by Bill Beaumont’s Lions, and set about carving up opponents left, right and centre up until 1992.
Tragically, in sporting terms, he only won 24 caps – scoring 19 tries – when in any other era since he would have been close to three figures or beyond and setting almost unreachable scoring marks.
His most famous demolition job came in 1984 when he put England to the sword, scoring a try in the 33-15 win in Port Elizabeth and a hat-trick in the second Test in Johannesburg when the Springboks ran out 35-9 winners.
Gerber had power, good feet and acceleration and according to his team-mate Ray Mordt was “the most dangerous player in the world from broken play”. It was no wonder then that rugby league clubs in Britain were queueing up to sign the midfielder, but Gerber stayed as an amateur in union whilst Mordt and Rob Louw made the trek to Wigan.
When South Africa was reinstated into international rugby in 1992, Gerber, by now 34, scored two tries against the All Blacks in the Springboks’ first Test back in Johannesburg but he retired from international rugby following the defeat to England later that year.
His career had contained Tests against sides such as the 1986 New Zealand Cavaliers and appearances against cobbled-together World XVs that did scant justice to his talents. Unsurprisingly, he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame – a small consolation for not being able to display his skills on a wider stage when he was in his prime. It was rugby’s loss.