Fourie du Preez reflects on his best season — one he almost passed up

2009-12-02 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s player of the year, Fourie du Preez, has revealed that he came close to retiring this year, but that the Springbok management’s handling of the players convinced him not to throw in the towel.

The Bulls and Springbok scrumhalf, who was very unlucky not to be named the International Rugby Board’s Player of the year this year, told News24 that while he rates this season as his best yet, it was almost one that never took place.

Du Preez will end off his season with a payday at the Barbarians game this weekend, but will look back on a decision he took earlier in the year that all Springbok fans can truly be thankful for.

“I’ve really been happy with this season — it was definitely my best yet,” Du Preez said, looking back on a year that included a Super 14 and Currie Cup trophy, a Lions and Tri-Nations victory and his own role in all these tournaments, starring at the highest level.

But Du Preez, who truly plays for the love of the game, spoke openly about how he almost quit the sport earlier this year because he wasn’t enjoying it. The pressure of being Bulls captain in 2008, the criticism that went with it and other factors took their toll on the scrumhalf. But in true Du Preez fashion, he picked himself up and responded the only way he knew how — on the field.

“I really gave a lot of thought to retiring at the end of this season,” Du Preez admitted, “I was planning for a season or two overseas and wanted to get out of Pretoria, out of my comfort zone.

“But the way things have gone made it difficult to contemplate quitting. The atmosphere that was set by the Springbok management was really wonderful. This Bok management is really some of the best ever and in that aspect I enjoy being part of the Springboks. They made it easier to make the decision.”

Du Preez hinted on the current tour that he had postponed his overseas ventures until after 2011 and that he and fellow Bull Morné Steyn could be the perfect halfback pairing for the World Cup.

“At the moment I’m really enjoying my rugby, and the atmosphere that has been created has brought out the best in my game. It was a difficult few months for me earlier this year, and a lot hinged on how things went. But the way I feel now I have a few good years in me. It wasn’t as if things we­ren’t good at the Boks in the past, but rather a case of whether I can reach my own goals and do better in my game.”

At 27 years of age, Du Preez has the opportunity to underline his class on the world stage and write his name in among the greats of the game. But unlike some players, money won’t be the determining factor. Du Preez is unlikely to play into his thirties, as Wallaby George Gregan has done.

“George has taken a bit less contact than me,” Du Preez laughs, “and my body is a bit more tired. But I won’t force it ever and if I feel I can’t be at my best, or make a difference for the team, then I will call it quits.

And if Du Preez can better his performances this year, Springbok rugby’s future may be bright after all.

 

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