Fourie holds the key for Boks
Fourie holds the key for BoksSHARE
The second coming of Springbok scrumhalf general Fourie du Preez is expected to have a major influence on their clash with the Wallabies at Newlands.
The former Bulls stalwart was widely considered the best scrumhalf in world rugby when he left the international stage to go and play in Japan after the 2011 World Cup, and the time away seems to have improved his game further.
The impact that Du Preez made on his return to Test rugby when he came on against a beaten Pumas side in the last 20 minutes of the match in Soweto made many people sit up and take note.
Whilst his decision-making and accuracy have always been major strengths, he showed incredible speed and urgency in that cameo against Argentina and consequently dominated discussion after the game.
Although his contract with his Japanese club means that he was not available for the three away matches in the Rugby Championship, he gets his first chance to start a match for the Boks since the World Cup on Saturday and expectations are high.
Du Preez was a vital cog in Heyneke Meyer's dominant Bulls side, and the Bok coach admitted that he brings so much more than just his skills as a scrumhalf.
"The main thing about Fourie is that you have also got another coach on the field, I have been fortunate enough to coach him for quite some time and he keeps the guys calm, organises the defence, organises the attack and the kicking game.
"So I think it also helps to take a lot of the pressure off Jean [de Villiers], he is also a quality leader and also a very dangerous player. Not just his kicking game, he also finds the right players in the right spaces and puts them through spaces.
"Watching Fourie at training you realise what a great player he is and I don't want to take anything away from Ruan [Pienaar] because he has also been playing well and has got a lot of experience but Fourie is in a class of his own," he said.
Meyer said that Du Preez's time in Japan has had a definite impact on his game as he is not only quicker, but he is also hungry to play as his playing schedule has been much lighter.
"Since he has been playing in Japan, which is a much quicker game, the speed of his pass and of his delivery has really improved so I really believe that he will take us to the next level.
One player that is particularly looking forward to linking up with Du Preez is his old Bulls partner in crime Morne Steyn who will have a lot less pressure on his shoulders with the experienced scrumhalf directing matters.
"I must say having Fourie back in the team is great, just the type of player he is. Ruan and Jano and Hougie did well but I think Fourie brings something different to the team, just the way he reads the game and controls the game by himself.
"When he is at No.9 it takes a lot of pressure off me, so hopefully on Saturday he can do it again," he said.
Steyn said that the difference in Du Preez's game since he has been in Japan is noticeable, and added that the challenge for the Bok backline will be to keep up with him.
"I think he is a lot fresher, they don't play a lot of rugby that side so I think he is looking forward to playing again and he is full of excitement to play.
"He has speeded up his game a lot, I think we saw that in Joburg, so our fitness has to be right to fit in with his game now," he said.
By Michael de Vries