It only takes a few minutes in the company of Fourie du Preez toe realise why this young sensation appears totally unflappable on the battlefield – that is his personality in a nutshell.
Du Preez’s numerous fans know him as a player that gets the job done without too many bells and whistles and this is reflected in his humble personality.
For someone who denies setting himself goals, Du Preez, achieved a remarkable amount in a small space of time and already he must be regarded as one of the most versatile scrumhalves in world rugby. Yet Du Preez, who is as clinical as a surgeon, believes that he can still improve on all aspects of his game.
Du Preez turned out for the mighty Affies for two years and in matric he also represented the Blue Bulls Schools side at the Craven Week in 2000. For the next two years, Du Preez made a name for himself with the Blue Bulls Under-20 side and also enjoyed his first taste of international rugby when he was picked for the SA Under-19 side.
While stil under-20, Du Preez already made his first appearances in Vodacom and Currie Cup matches. The following year he helped the side defend the Currie Cup as first choice scrumhalf in the absence of Joost van der Westhuizen.
This was also the year that Du Preez realised that the national selectors have an eye on him when he was drafted to join the Springbok training camp. Although he did not make the final touring squad, he did get a glimpse of Springbok rugby.
Du Preez says that missing out on selection did not disappoint him, but rather that it was an honour to be noticed. This year he established himself as the best scrumhalf in the country, although he now had to impress the new coach, Jake White.
One outstanding characteristic of Du Preez’s play is his deadly breaks that almost always end in a five-pointer. “I don’t think about my breaks beforehand,” says Du Preez. “When I arrive at the ruck, I usually know how many defenders are covering the blind side and if we have a man over, I will take the break,” he says as if it is as easy as tying your bootlaces.
The modern player has to adapt to being coached by many different coaches in the same season. This year, Du Preez already served under different coaches in the Super 12, Currie Cup and for the Springboks.
“It is sometimes hard to adapt to different coaches, as each one has his own ideas and patterns. I found it easy to return to the Blue Bulls when the Tri-Nations ended. Here I can play with my friends in a relaxed environment and Heyneke Meyer also gives the players the freedom to express themselves.
According to Du Preez, the step up into the international arena was not a hard one to make. “You play against the same guys in the Tri-Nations that you faced in the Super 12. The only thing that really needs to change is your mental approach.”
Du Preez regards Byron Kelleher as the toughest opponent he has faced. “He is very physical and he always keeps a few players busy. He even creates problems for big forwards and if he didn’t come onto the field in the Christchurch test against us, the All Blacks would have lost that match.”
For Du Preez, the two highlights of his career are the All Black test in Christchurch and and the try he scored in last year’s Currie Cup final.
Heyneke Meyer’s appointment as Super 12 coach also has Du Preez excited. “All the players are happy with his appointment. This will be great for the continuity of the team and we place all our trust in him.”
Off the field, golf is the other great passion in Du Preez’s life and he is already playing off a one handicap. “Maybe I’ll play rugby for another three seasons and then become a pro golfer!” Du Preez quips.