South Africa have the potential to rival New Zealand as the top team in the world.
This is the candid assessment of World Cup-winning Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, after his telling contribution to his country’s record-breaking 73-13 victory over Argentina in Soweto at the weekend.
Du Preez, who played his first Test in nearly two years after being released by his Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath, scored one of the Boks’ nine tries.
And having featured in the 2007 World Cup-winning squad alongside that included legends like John Smit and Victor Matfield, to name just a couple, Du Preez would know about the potential of the class of 2013.
“This team has frightening potential,” Du Preez told a media briefing after the Boks’ demolition job at Soccer City.
“I struggle to find the right words,” he told the media scrum, adding: “But any team with such outstanding forwards and exciting backs huge potential.”
He added that it was “great to be back”, but has unfortunately missed the trip to Mendoza for the return match this coming Saturday.
Du Preez, widely regarded as the best scrumhalf in the world before his departure to Japan, is not available for the overseas legs of the Rugby Championship. While his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, released him for international duty, it is only for the three Tests in South Africa.
Despite his nearly two-year absence from the Test arena Du Preez showed he lost none of the skills that earned him the No.1 ranking among the world’s elite scrumhalves.
Du Preez, who replaced Ruan Pienaar in the 52nd minute of the Soweto Test, scored a try within 10 minutes after coming on and was credited with a ‘try assist’. He kicked just once in the nearly half-hour stay on the field, made 28 passes and had three runs.
That certainly silenced the critics who questioned Du Preez’s inclusion in the Bok squad, even though it is only for the home leg of the tournament.
The 63-Test veteran, who scored his 14th international try, at Soccer City, dismissed the notion that Japan’s Top League is making players ‘soft’ and will detract from their qualities if they return to the Test arena.
“People say the rugby there is weak, but nobody really ever sees it,” Du Preez told the media in Soweto.
“I went there [Japan] to escape the pressure and limelight, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” the scrumhalf said.
“I’ve learnt a lot at my club,” he said of the Suntory outfit being coached by Eddie Jones – who was an assistant coach with the Boks when they won the 2007 World Cup in France.
“It was the best decision for my rugby and for me as a person.
“The pace against Argentina was a lot similar to the rugby in Japan.”