NEWLANDS — One person who is particularly excited about what Fourie du Preez can bring to the Springboks in tomorrow’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship showdown with Australia at Newlands is his halfback partner Morne Steyn.
The half-centurion will play his landmark game with the man he started his Springbok career playing alongside, and a player who he just feels is a league above anyone else who plays scrumhalf. And that’s not an insult to the man Du Preez replaces, Ruan Pienaar, who Steyn also rates, but just an acknowledgement to the genius of the man coming in.
“Having Fourie back at scrumhalf is a big boost because he is such a tough old player and makes such a difference when he is present,” said the flyhalf. “Ruan (Pienaar) and Hougie (Francois Hougaard) have done really well for us when they have played, but Fourie just brings something extra that no other scrumhalf can.
“The way he reads the game and controls the game makes such a difference to the flyhalf and, yes, he takes a lot of pressure off me.”
Du Preez does that both with the distances he reaches with his field kicking, and in that sense Steyn is far from the first Bok flyhalf to acknowledge the role that his former Bulls teammate has played in his success. When the Springboks won the World Cup in 2007, Butch James did the same.
“He just makes it so much easier for you to settle. There has been an improvement in his game since he has been in Japan. He is a lot fresher, and he is really excited to be playing for the Boks again because he has been away for a while and has missed it. You don’t play a lot of rugby in Japan, and I guess that has helped. But he has also sped up his game quite a bit, and that as we saw in Johannesburg against Argentina that is exciting.”