Fourie is first prize
17 Apr 2012
JON CARDINELLI says it’s imperative that Heyneke Meyer convinces Fourie du Preez to assume the Springbok captaincy.
Du Preez and the new Bok coach are currently in talks about the vacant captaincy position as well as a return to the Test fold. Victor Matfield has been mentioned as a potential skipper for the England Tests, although it is Du Preez who could eventually settle into a more permanent role.
After winning the Japanese double with Suntory Sungoliath, Du Preez returned to South Africa in late March. He has since been approached by Meyer, who has said that he wants the former Bok scrumhalf to lead the next generation of Springboks.
At this point, Du Preez is undecided about a return to Test rugby. This is why Matfield has been touted by some as the strongest option. If Du Preez decides that his international days are done, Matfield will assume the captaincy for one final season.
Du Preez had originally identified the 2011 World Cup as the end of his Test career. However, the disappointment of exiting that tournament in the quarter-final has left him with a sense of unfinished business, according to a recent interview with SA Rugby magazine.
In that interview, Du Preez said he was surprised with the level of professionalism in Japan, and how his time in Tokyo has made him a better player. At the age of 30, he may still have something to offer at the highest level.
It’s an opinion that is held by Du Preez’s coach at Suntory, Eddie Jones. Jones feels that Du Preez is in fantastic physical shape and has taken his skills to another level. The former Bok technical adviser, who worked closely with Du Preez at the 2007 World Cup, still believes there is no equal to Du Preez in South African rugby.
Francois Hougaard has long been groomed as Du Preez’s successor. He has replaced Du Preez at the Bulls with mixed results, however, and there are doubts that he can execute as efficiently as Du Preez or play that pivotal role of game manager. In the context of a Bok game plan that relies heavily on tactical-kicking accuracy, Hougaard is still not in Du Preez’s class.
While Du Preez has never captained the Boks, he formed part of the team’s leadership core for eight years. Du Preez has worked with Meyer at the Bulls for an even longer period, and so Meyer is well aware of his strengths in this regard. All in all, the Meyer-Du Preez combination looks a good fit.
When he was appointed, Meyer said he would select a captain who shares in his own philosophy. He said he would not pick a long-term captain until he got to know the Bok squad, and thus it was inferred that the captain for the England series would have worked closely with Meyer before.
As Jones suggests, Du Preez would add value to the Boks from a playing perspective. At 30, he is far from a spent force. Jones also argued that Du Preez is only now entering his prime, and that Du Preez will produce his best rugby in the next two years.
Because of the time constraints, Meyer doesn’t have a lot of options. He was appointed in January knowing he would have a week to work with the Boks before the first Test against England. His management team was only confirmed last Sunday. It’s now six weeks before the Boks meet as a group and Meyer still doesn’t know who will captain the side.
Taking all of this into account, you can’t blame Meyer for sticking with a leader who he has worked with before. Du Preez is a more attractive option than Matfield as at 30 he still has the ability to dominate the best in the world. If Du Preez decides to return, he will also play for more than one season.
At 34, Matfield is likely to play for just one more year. It may prove an effective stop-gap measure for the series against England, but beyond that Meyer must start looking to build a new leadership core from the younger players in the squad.