Fourie du Preez divides opinion

Graham Henry says he’s the best half-back in the world, a player of true class and quality. Former England coach Brian Ashton says he is the player who ran the game for the Springboks at last year’s World Cup. Heyneke Meyer believes he is the best No. 9 that South Africa has ever produced. Certain members of the South African Parliament believe he shouldn’t even be in the Test team facing New Zealand this Saturday in Cape Town.

Fourie du Preez would doubtless be surprised to find so many different opinions about himself; a touch bewildered to hear so many people making comment. But then, modesty has always been one of the core attributes of the South African scrum half, a player whom, in my estimation, fully merits Graham Henry’s praise.



The son of the former Northern Transvaal No 8 of the 1960s Fourie du Preez Senr., the current half-back is a diamond of a player. The reason for that is, he excels just as much off the ball as when he has it. Many scrum halves can pass well, some can attack and run to a pretty high level, too.



But du Preez, now 26, is just as good when he hasn’t got the ball. He reads a game like a book, covers intelligently and seems to sense danger and where he will best serve his team in terms of position. In locations as diverse as Dunedin to Paris, Cape Town to Christchurch, Fourie du Preez has made some superb covering tackles or tidied up loose ball that would otherwise have been of extreme danger to his side.



But there are other qualities besides. Like the classy batsman who always seems to have that extra second to play his shot, du Preez appears to unearth space and time beyond the comprehension of others. Commendably, he plays with his head up; watching, looking, plotting and scheming. He isn’t a half back obsessed with the break yet he keeps a back row honest by the occasional, deadly dart off the fringes of ruck, maul or scrum.



Invariably, when he chooses to break, it is at the most propitious moment for his team. For du Preez doesn’t waste ball, isn’t a flashy, erratic sort of player. Nor does he appear to get flustered. As the former South African full-back HO De Villiers says “Staying calm and composed is a huge part of his game. He takes everything in his stride.



“But I really think what makes him such a great player is that he always seems to be in control of what he is doing.”



Northern hemisphere observers have long felt du Preez is a player perfectly suited to rugby north of the equator. Even in heavy conditions, in the wet and cold, he is able to mastermind a game tactically. And still that marvellous pass that seems to spin like a top as it is flung out to his partner, remains the envy of all others. Here is a half-back who can clear the ball instantly, off either hand. No running sideways before unloading, that death knell to a backline, no erratic service. Just a fast, flat pass, delivered crisply, at speed and with great accuracy. How often do you see him fire the ball wide of his partner, or send it dribbling along the ground?



The world has known some fine half-backs in its time: Jeeps, Edwards, Laidlaw, De Villiers, Gallion, Howley, Farr-Jones, Kirk. Beyond argument, add Du Preez to that esteemed gallery.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most