Earlier this week, a reputable specialist rugby website asked former Springbok lock Andries Bekker to name a XV of the best players he’s faced or had as teammates.
His choice as blindside flanker was Rynhardt Elstadt, one of two Springbok debutants against the Wallabies this weekend at Ellis Park.
Tellingly, this is how Bekker described him: “There is no word to describe him other than ‘tough’ ”
He’s not the only person.
When Elstadt was forging a reputation as steady, somewhat underrated stalwart for the Stormers, he also became known for invariably being at the heart of a rumpus during matches.
He was, to all intents and purposes, a bit of a bully.
Then, in the latter stages of 2017, Elstadt joined French giants Toulouse as a medical joker – a short-term, injury-enforced replacement – and did more than enough to earn a full-time gig.
About 18 months later, the 29-year-old is now in the running for an unexpected place in Rassie Erasmus’ World Cup squad.
Ironically, it probably has a lot to do with him channeling his “anger” (for want of a better word) better, because, you see, when a player becomes more chilled, he tends to add new strings to his bow.
Elstadt might still be a blindside flanker for Toulouse, but that doesn’t mean his role is that of bruiser anymore.
“I’m a lot calmer,” he said this week after being confirmed in Saturday’s starting line-up at No 6.
“I think that a lot of people are making a fuss about nothing (how he’s evolved from a proper blindside flanker to more nuanced player). I’m not what you would call a fetcher. My job is to arrive first and secure the ball at the breakdown. If I do my job, hopefully it sets the platform to attack from the next phase.”
Given his fine form for Toulouse last season, it’s a role that he’s comfortable with, even if it was borne out of necessity.
“Rugby in the northern hemisphere is very different. It’s forced me to evolve and hopefully anything I’ve learned up there can be passed on to the players in the Bok squad,” said Elstadt.
“It was difficult to adjust when I got there. Learning the language was tough. However, I found that after I grasped the language a few doors opened for me.”
Needless to say, the biggest one is standing wide open.