Joe van Niekerk [2] - Rugby players

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Considered by some as a left-field selection by former Springbok coach Harry Viljoen in 2001, having been plucked straight out of the SA Under-21 ranks, 'Big Joe' van Niekerk soon became a firm favourite in South African rugby with his boyish smile and freakish pace and skills. Now a senior international, with 51 caps to his name, Joe is playing his rugby for French club Toulon - and with plenty of success too, having picked up various playing awards in France; one of which saw him named in a Top 14 Dream Team.
Van Niekerk made his Bok debut at Newlands against the All Blacks, before even setting foot on the field for a Currie Cup or a Super Rugby match. And, in addition to that astounding achievement, Joe was also named as Player of the SANZAR/UAR Under-21 Championships, despite the fact that the SA team did not even make the final in 2001.
Joe's finest hour in a Bok shirt was undoubtedly during the 2003 World Cup - when he was his team's best player, despite the upheavel within the squad - until he suffered an unfortunate, and serious, knee injury in the final pool match against Samoa.
That, however, did not deter the strong-minded former KES all-rounder (he excelled at cricket and athletics as a schoolboy, too) and he was back in the Bok mix under Jake White in 2004, before untimely injuries ultimately kept him out of the selection race for the 2007 World Cup.
But Joe again fought back from that latest setback and returned to the Lions franchise for the 2008 Super 14. The results were instant as 'Big Joe' worked his way back into the starting line-up and his outstanding form saw him win a recall to the Springbok squad - featuring in the Tri-Nations and also winning his 50th cap in the process.
Aside from captaining the SA Under-21s in 2001, Joe also captained SA Schools in 1998 and SA U19 in 1999, whilst his inspirational leadership in France helped Toulon remain in the Top 14 after a shaky start to the 2008/09 season saw them staring down the relegation barrel at one stage.

Full name: Johann
Nick name: Joe
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