If there is one thing that stands out when one meets Fourie du Preez, the second player of the Vodacom Blue Bulls' to win the SA Rugby Player of the Year-award in as many years, it's his modesty.
Fourie recently followed in the footsteps of his Bulls and Springbok team mate Bryan Habana by walking away with the top award in SA Rugby. But unlike Habana, who is always in the news because of his try-scoring feats, Du Preez is more of a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of a person.
As was reported in the Sunday Independent, the 24-year-old Du Preez showed from a young age he was destined to play at the highest level. Luckily for the Bulls and the Boks people in high places noticed his talents and looked after him. He came through the ranks and after starring in the SA u-21 side that won the World Cup at Ellis Park in 2002 under coach Jake White, he was always destined to become a Springbok.
That moment came in 2004 when White, a great believer in Du Preez, became Bok-coach. He has since played in 30 tests, but that could easily have been more as Fourie missed the 2005 November-tour because of injury. At times he has also played in the shadow of Ricky Januarie, but in the 2006 Tri-Nations the Bulls scrumhalf showed his true worth by starring week in and week out in the Green and Gold.
These performances, which included scoring a few tries, probably swayed the judges to vote for Fourie ahead of his Bulls team-mate Victor Matfield. That, and his consistency in the Super 14 and the Springbok tests.
A born and bred Pretoria-boy Fourie, who is taking a break in the next few months along with other senior Boks like Matfield, Os du Randt and a few others, will try and build on these performances in next year's Super 14 for the Bulls. Although he should make the Springbok squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the Bulls scrumhalf has admitted he is not even thinking of France at the moment.
"It's still a long way away and a lot can happen before that team is picked. All I can do is concentrate on my next game," he said.
"I still can't say that I have achieved in rugby that I set out to do. I am still relatively young. I'm still developing as a player and one can always improve.
"To win this award is a huge honour. I never thought it would happen. It's not something that I aimed at getting. Just to become a Springbok and play at test level was already a huge honour."
Looking back at the last few years, Du Preez's eye for a gap, brilliant defence and fantastic kicking game stands out. That is probably why he also got nominated by the International Rugby Board for the World Player of the Year.
In between training for big games for the Bulls and the Boks, Fourie likes to hit a few golf balls. He can be classified as a bit more than you average recreational golfer. Du Preez plays off a very low handicap and is one of the best golfers among his provincial and national team mates, often taking his friends and team-mates' money during a friendly round of 18 holes.
He matriculated at Affies, in the shadow of Loftus Versfeld. His father, Fourie du Preez, also played for the Bulls. Fourie senior is regarded as one of the unlucky players who deserved to play for the Boks, but never did. The way things stand at the moment, Fourie junior will certainly play a lot more tests for South Africa.
Fourie du Preez's stats:
Birth Date: 24 March 1982
Birth City: Pretoria
Primary School: Skuilkrans
High School: Affies
Tertiary Education: Tukkies Springbok Career
Debut: Ireland 2004