Franco Mostert is a physical and positional enigma, and he was the most valuable player to the Springboks in a brutal three-Test series, where the physicality of each match was as predictable as the results were uncertain, writes Oliver Keohane.
From the moment SA ‘A’ beat the British & Irish Lions in what was essentially a Test match before the three Tests began, Lock/Flank Franco Mostert has continued to level up.
Mostert has long been a publicly unsung hero of Springbok rugby, but within the Springbok management and team there is an undoubted respect for the motor engine that he is. Consistently, Franco Mostert tops tackle contributions and ruck hits and his fitness for a tight forward, capable of playing flank, is exceptional.
Mostert was integral in the Springboks second Test win, starting at lock and then playing out the game at flank, to allow Lood De Jager to come on as a super sub and fill in next to Eben Etzebeth. Much is always made – and rightly so – of substitutions who make an impact,. but not enough is said of the likes of Mostert who play two positions over 80 minutes, to allow for these substitutions and positional flexibility.
When it was confirmed that Pieter-Steph Du Toit would be out for the final Test, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was unshaken in his movement of Mostert to flank.
‘You would have seen we’ve moved him there before in games, and he’s always a guy in the preparation weeks who needs to know both roles, and you could see from the past weekend there was no issue moving him there’, said Nienaber in the build up to the test.
As much as Mostert delivered over the full 80 minutes of the second Test, he was as emphatic in his relentless presence in the third. He carried more than before, with the freedom allowed from blindside flank, hit as many rucks and made as many tackles as ever, broke his nose somewhere along the line, left the field for blood, then came back on and moved to number 5 when starting lock Lood De Jager made way from the field and the only replacements were loose forwards Kwagga Smith and Marco Van Staden.
Former Springbok captain John Smit said in the week that Mostert was probably a contender for MVP of the series, and as the Springboks celebrate a series that was defined by more brutality than beauty, its hard to argue the bloodied and brilliant performances of Franco Mostert.
Locking partner Eben Etzebeth was huge over the three Tests, as was half-centurion Damian De Allende (12) and captain Siya Kolisi (6), and nobody can dispute claims from any one of those players to the title of Player of the Series.
But for me, there is something special about the understated, unfaltering impact of Franco Mostert, and his calm ability to slot in for Pieter-Steph Du Toit in the second Test, to help the Boks to victory, and then a week later start at flank before moving back to lock (with a broken nose), to have just as much of an impact as the week before.
Mostert is the ever present bomb whether the full Springbok bomb squad is present or not, and he is my player of the 2021 British & Irish Lions series.
Watch: Mostert’s British & Irish Lions campaign