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.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat