South Africa caps: 5
When Northampton Saints were promoted back to the top flight in 1996 chairman Keith Barwell promised world class signings to help springboard the club to bigger and better things.
The capture of Garry Pagel proved to be a cornerstone, not just of this policy but also for the Saints pack as the club reached the pinnacle of European club rugby.
Pagel was already a World Cup winner when he arrived at Franklin's Gardens ahead of the 1997/98 season. Earlier that summer he had received rave reviews for his performance for Western Province against the British and Irish Lions, when he took apart the Lions front row. Sir Ian McGeechan - the Lions head coach and then director of rugby at Franklin's Gardens - had no hesitation in securing Pagel's signature and bring him to Northampton.
Almost immediately the Saints' pack became one of the most feared in England. Pagel let his play do the talking; his destructive scrummaging was backed up by excellent mobility and handling around the park and, most important of all, a supreme winning mentality which rubbed off on the rest of the team.
That Saints vintage's finest hour came at Twickenham on May 27th, 2000, when they defeated Munster to lift the Heineken Cup. In what was a tough season that saw the Saints reach the Tetley's Bitter Cup final and be challenging for the Premiership title until the last couple of rounds, Pagel was a rock in the number one shirt and it would be fair to say that the team would have found it significantly harder to have conquered Europe without him.
When he retired from rugby Pagel returned to South Africa, where he is a farmer.