GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
While many believed Fourie du Preez was past his best following inconsistent performances for the Springboks at the World Cup last year, the former Bulls No 9 has shown outstanding form for Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath. He’s been an instant hit for Eddie Jones’s charges as the first-choice scrumhalf and was central to their success, which continued in the Japan Cup last weekend.
Du Preez scored a brace in Suntory’s 47-28 Top League final win over outside centre Jaque Fourie’s Panasonic Wild Knights in February, and he played another key role in clinching the team’s second title in the Japan Cup final on Sunday – a repeat of the league title decider where they also faced the Wild Knights. This time it was a more closely contested encounter, with Suntory winning 21-9 in the last match of the current Japanese season.
Du Preez formed a dangerous halfback combination with Samoan flyhalf Tusi Pisi and the duo spearheaded their side to a 14-3 half-time lead. The Wild Knights reduced the deficit to five points with two Mike Delany penalties soon after the restart, but Suntory outside centre Koji Taira sealed the result with a try in the last quarter. Fourie featured off the bench for the Wild Knights, while Danie Rossouw failed to make the Suntory match 22.
Last Tuesday, Du Preez told the media that he still has hopes of playing for the Boks this year, and Suntory boss Jones and flank Todd Clever both believe he can make a valuable contribution to Heyneke Meyer’s team if selected.
‘Fourie is still a valuable asset,’ Clever told keo.co.za. ‘As we prepared for the two finals, many of our players were nervous heading into the fixture … especially in the locker rooms before kick-off. But Fourie was a calming influence as he had already played on the biggest stages of world rugby before. He went to every player, gave them advice and told them to focus. His experience helped us on and off the field. I’m sure he can do the same for the Springboks.’
In Europe, the French Top 14, English Premiership and Pro 12 were all on a break with the final Six Nations round being played over the weekend. There was action in the LV Cup final, though, which saw Leicester Tigers beat Northampton Saints 26-14 in Worcester. Tighthead prop Brian Mujati played off the wood in the second half for the losers.