Victor, Fourie put Boks first
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
I am sure Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer wasn't really surprised to learn that Fourie du Preez made himself available to play for his country, but more that the gifted scrumhalf was backing someone else
for the Bok No 9 jersey!
This follows speculation on whether Meyer will use the services of Du Preez for the England series, something that is still not clear and the continued uncertainty on the availability of the Suntory scrumhalf, something that was cleared up this week.
When Meyer started his camps and media sessions, he made it clear that he only wanted what was best for the Boks. He also indicated that if that means that he needed to start with a bunch of overseas-based Boks and Victor Matfield as captain, so be it.
His first job was to get the Boks winning every Test match and he was comfortable that he had the means and players to do it.
Of course there was a massive outcry.
'Matfield is too old and retired... and Du Preez not good enough anymore' people proclaimed.
These sentiments or opinions could of course not be verified unless both the former Boks actually played and performed badly.
The proof would've been in the pudding, but few were prepared to allow Meyer serve that dish, let alone allow him in the kitchen.
During all of this, Matfield and Du Preez said nothing. They had their private chats and discussions with Meyer, but true to character, they revealed nothing.
Instead, they had to suck it up, in forums like these, listening to and reading the opinions of so many pundits, most of them reacting negatively to their possible return.
Their talks with Meyer would have been about the best way forward for the Boks and the country. It would have been about the best way to beat England and what combinations would be best suited to edge out the visitors from Queen’s country.
I can almost guarantee that never, in any of those discussions, did Du Preez or Matfield push themselves as contenders to play in those Tests.
Meyer wants Francois Hougaard on the wing and Du Preez at scrumhalf, but Du Preez would have pushed for Hougaard at No 9 then as he did yesterday
It would be easy for Matfield, if he was selfish, to say "yes" to Meyer, play in the three Tests and in the process pass John Smit’s record as the most capped Bok in Test history.
This could add another "zero" to any corporate speaking engagement fee, it could probably sell another book and will or course put him on top of a very, very special Springbok record.
Du Preez could also commit for a year and in doing so, get to that exclusive 100-Test club.
But that is not what or who they are.
Du Preez this week considered all options before making his intentions clear.
Despite the knowledge that Meyer wanted him, he wanted Suntory to be 100% happy with that. Let us not forget, he earns a small fortune as a Sungoliath player and he felt that he would not be able to deliver on what he promised when he signed on two years ago.
Du Preez announced way back then that he was moving to Japan, a move that enabled the Bulls to start with succession plans. Hougaard was signed for a couple more seasons and Jano Vermaak was lured from the Lions. Everything would've finished perfectly with the Boks winning the Rugby World Cup again.
However, that fateful result in Wellington in the quarter-finals against Australia has left deep scars for the likes of Du Preez and Matfield.
Fiercely competitive and proud Springboks, that was not the way they wanted to finish. Yet, they made commitments to Suntory and SuperSport and moved on.
Knowing them too well, Meyer realised the open wound and being the motivator that he is, probably pushed a couple of buttons that stirred something inside their competitive beings.
Du Preez was silent for a long time and finally spoke from the heart. We now know where he stands. If he does answer when duty calls, let us respect him for that. His actions in the last couple of weeks deserve that. And let us leave comments on his play until after he actually plays.
That is only fair, is it not? After all, he cares just as much about the Boks as any of us. Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.
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