A few months ago Fourie du Preez could have been forgiven for having given up hope of playing in the World Cup. How England must have wished that had been the case as he once again showed why he is regarded as the best scrumhalf in world rugby.
The 24-year-old turned in one of the star turns of any World Cup as he created the three tries that drove the Springboks to a record 36-0 World Cup defeat of the world champions on Friday and earned high praise from the losers’ coach, Brian Ashton.
”Fourie du Preez is probably the brightest scrumhalf in the sport at the moment,” commented Ashton, who by contrast had to replace his first-choice number nine Shaun Perry at half-time after a dreadful first half.
For Bok coach Jake White, his performance was a miracle given that injury had all but kept him out for most of the season, though he had returned for the Bulls’ Super 14 victory over fellow South African side the Sharks.
”It was only I think his third game of rugby in a while so it was pretty special,” said the 43-year-old.
”In fact that wasn’t his full box of tricks as we haven’t really done everything that we have worked on with him in training, there just hasn’t been the opportunity.”
White heaped praise both on flyhalf Butch James, declaring it one of the best Tests he had played, and on former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones.
”The work he has done on the halfback partnership has had a huge impact,” said White.
However, if England had done their homework, and no doubt likely quarterfinal opponents Wales will have taken note, his darting runs down the blindside should not have taken them by surprise, as he revealed to the Bulls website.
”I don’t think about my breaks beforehand,” said Du Preez, who made his international debut against Ireland in 2004.
”When I arrive at the ruck, I usually know how many defenders are covering the blindside and if we have a man over, I will make the break. It is as easy as tying my bootlaces.”
Rugby, to be fair, is in his genes as the 2006 South African player of the year is the son of former Northern Transvaal number eight Fourie Snr and nephew of Springbok legend Frik du Preez.
Despite all the accolades and awards he has received, he remains very humble.
”It was a team win on Friday and no, we are not looking to the final yet, we are remaining firmly on the ground and taking everything one stage at a time,” said Du Preez, who rates All Black scrumhalf Byron Kelleher as his toughest opponent.
”I don’t know if that was the finest performance by me in a Springbok jersey but hopefully I can work on my game even more, as I lacked a fair amount of match fitness coming into the tournament,” added Du Preez, who will sit out the next group match with Tonga next Saturday in Lens.
And should the injuries eventually take their toll on him with the almost incessant year-round play, then Ernie Els and other South African golfing stars better watch out as he is a crack golfer and is already a one handicap player.
”Maybe I’ll play rugby for another three seasons and then become a pro golfer,” Du Preez joked to the Bulls website. — AFP