Eddie Jones says Fourie du Preez’s peerless decision-making and execution will serve the Springboks well in the play-offs, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
‘Told you so, mate!’ Jones chirps after I remind him of a conversation we had in 2012.
Back then, Jones was the head coach of Suntory Sungoliath in Japan. I had called him up to speak about Du Preez, the international retiree and one of Suntory’s newest recruits.
Jones said that Du Preez should not have retired from Test rugby after the 2011 World Cup. He revealed that the seasoned scrumhalf was looking sharper than ever at Suntory, and at 29 was only starting to explore the depths of his talent.
Fast forward to the present. I had a chance to catch up with Jones at the Japan team hotel in Kenilworth. The veteran coach said that he never had a doubt about his prophecy coming to pass. Du Preez has played some outstanding rugby since rejoining the Boks in 2013, and has been one of South Africa’s star performers at the 2015 World Cup.
‘He is the best decision-making halfback I’ve ever seen,’ begins Jones. It’s some statement considering Jones coached the Brumbies and Wallabies in the early 2000s when one of the great scrumhalves, George Gregan, was around.
‘Fourie’s ability to come out of the ruck, to know whether to hit the short runner or go wide, is superb. He’s getting older now, so obviously he doesn’t have that electric pace he had in 2007, but his ability to control the game is first-class.’
The Boks need Du Preez to fire against Wales in the World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham on Saturday. The Dragons will feel confident about their defence considering they kept the Boks tryless in the previous meeting between the two sides in November 2014. Australia also failed to breach Wales in the recent Pool A clash in London.
As Jones points out, one of Du Preez’s greatest strengths is his ability to organise and direct an attack towards a weak point in the opposition defence.
‘It’s like having a coach on the field,’ said Jones. ‘If you watch the NFL and you see the quarterbacks, they run the team. The coach might be sending them the info, but they are the ones who tell everyone what to do on the field. To me, Fourie is like that.’
Du Preez has started three matches at this World Cup tournament. The Boks scored six tries against Samoa, three against Scotland, and 10 against the USA.
Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images