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?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living