Joost: He’s the best no. 9, says Fourie du Preez

2011-05-30 00:00

SPRINGBOK and Vodacom Bulls scrumhalf Fourie du Preez has paid homage to former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen, calling him “the best scrumhalf in Springbok history”.

Du Preez, speaking exclusively to SARugby.com, said he was devastated by the news that his childhood hero and mentor had been provisionally diagnosed with motor neuron disease.

“It’s absolutely tragic. It just made me realise again how quickly one’s life can change. One day you’re in perfect health, the next you’re fighting a life-threatening illness,” Du Preez said.

The incumbent Bok number nine has fond memories of watching the 1995 World Cup winner in action at Loftus Versfeld as a youngster.

“Joost is a player I really looked up to when I was growing up and started playing scrumhalf. When he was in his prime my father would take me to Loftus and I would watch him play and dream of one day playing for the Bulls and the Springboks and being half as good as him.”

Du Preez was Van der Westhuizen’s understudy with the Bulls during his debut Super Rugby season in 2003, an experience he deems invaluable to his growth as a player.

“My first year of Super Rugby I was fortunate enough to bench for him. He really supported me and I learned a great deal from him during that time,” he said.

Van der Westhuizen, who won 89 Test caps for the Springboks and captained South Africa on 10 occasions, is one of the most legendary and decorated figures in Springbok history.

The 2007 International Rugby Hall of Fame inductee is the most prolific try-scoring Test scrumhalf of all-time with 38 five-pointers and jointly holds the Springbok record with Bryan Habana for most Test tries.

Du Preez, widely regarded as the leading scrumhalf in world rugby over the past five years, said of Van der Westhuizen, “In my opinion he’s the best scrumhalf in Springbok history …”

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