He tried for years and years to win a Springbok cap and had always been a runner-up, never the victor. At the time of leading Orange Free State to a victory over the touring Welshmen in 1964, he was ready to retire. Danie Craven interposed. He persuaded Sakkie to play for one more year. Now, at last, Sakkie is one of the immortals who have worn the emblem of the bouncing buck in an international.
Deep down, he was said to have a fiery temper, but you would have to dig deep to find this, for he had a natural charm and a courtesy or sportsmanship which was extremely attractive. Everyone felt extremely delighted when the Tour Committee, maintained him as vice-captain for the first test, even after an injury had brought Malan, the normal forward leader, back to the side. Sakkie was that sort of bloke, everyone was usually on his side.
From a footballing point of view, van Zyl had two points of commendation, he chased harder and more conscientiously than many of his companions and he could dribble with a skill to match the very best of the old-timers. His support play in the lineout was decidedly not of the standard an All Black selector would set for an internationally.