The dilemma of Du Preez

2015-03-08 15:00

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will have to take a massive leap of faith to include scrum half Fourie du Preez in his team this year.

Meyer’s belief in Du Preez is well documented, but that conviction is going to be tested to the maximum if he decides that the former Bulls No 9 will be the one to guide the Boks to victory in the World Cup.

It seems Meyer will have the tough choice of picking Du Preez for the Rugby Championship, which starts in July, without him having played any rugby for almost six months.

Du Preez returned to South Africa from Japan last week and, according to his agent, Craig Livingstone, will meet SA Rugby to discuss his plans for the rest of the year.

Livingstone, however, said it “was unlikely” Du Preez would play any Super Rugby this season. So Meyer will again have to make a call on his preferred pivot being able to make the step up to test rugby.

When approached for comment, Meyer did not want to be interviewed, saying he was not in a position to discuss individual players.

Saru CEO Jurie Roux was also not forthcoming on the merits of Du Preez not playing any rugby and then being picked for the Boks.

Roux is in Dublin for World Rugby meetings and replied by email to the following questions:

What is the situation surrounding Du Preez? Is he going to return to South Africa and play Super Rugby? Is he going to play elsewhere? Or will he come into the Rugby Championship without having played competitively for months?

Roux replied: “I understand the interest around certain individuals and the questions posed, but the rugby World Cup is a campaign that will be mounted by 31 players and to publicly speculate about individuals would be unfair on that squad. Team management will do their work in the background to take the best, fit, 31 South Africans to the tournament.”

Interestingly, Saru did not seem to know Du Preez was back in the country or simply refrained from disclosing this information.

DuPreez has apparently been struggling with injury recently, but his return to fitness was crucial as he guided his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, to the finals of the Japanese Cup – a match they lost 15-3 to rivals Yamaha Júbilo.

Meyer has gambled on the player – who was his kingpin at the Bulls – to effect his on-pitch strategy with the Springboks.

After deciding to take up a contract in Japan, Du Preez had not played for the Boks since October 9 2011 (the ill-fated World Cup quarterfinal refereed by Bryce Lawrence in New Zealand) when Meyer brought him back into the fold in August 2013.

Du Preez silenced his critics by playing well, but he started only seven of the 22 tests since that comeback game at the FNB Stadium in Joburg.

Although there’s great respect for Du Preez in the national side, the fact that he will be allowed to miss the rigours of Super Rugby while they soldier through a punishing schedule may not go down well.

In response to a query about the status of François Steyn who, with JP Pietersen, has returned to the Sharks, Roux referred City Press to the Du Preez response.

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