Sport24 asked: You retired from rugby earlier this year. Did you call time on your own terms?
Jaque Fourie: Definitely. I was very blessed to have played the game for such a long period of time and suffered from a minimal amount of injuries. I would sum up my professional playing career as a very successful one and I made some great memories along the way. I played my final competitive match for the Kobe Steelers in January this year and have since returned from Japan to live in South Africa. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for me and my family. It was an honour to play 72 Tests for the Springboks and I’m actually glad I retired from international rugby in 2014. It’s now a young man’s game because the players are bigger, stronger and faster. There was some talk that I would form part of the Springboks’ plans in the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I was in consultation with Heyneke Meyer at the time but I thought hard about my career status when back in the country for two weeks and I decided to focus on my career with the Steelers rather than make myself available for international rugby. It was a fairly difficult decision to retire from internationals but I have no regrets retiring when I did. I am pleased I wasn’t part of the Springboks’ 2015 season because all the losses added up. During my international career, I never lost to the likes of Argentina and Wales and I prided myself on my good record (Fourie enjoyed a 72.22% winning rate in Tests).
Sport24 asked: You’ve said you’d like to stay involved as a defence coach. Is it still the plan?
Jaque Fourie: For sure. In the next couple of months I plan to seriously kick-start my coaching career. My first assignment is to complete the BokSmart program and thereafter I will do my coaching levels. My objective is to become a defensive coaching specialist. I had a passion for the defensive side of the game when I was still playing and would really like to give back to the game and impart the knowledge and experience I gained over my career. Once I have the theoretical part of coaching behind me and have passed the relevant courses, I would like to do my apprenticeship under the tutelage of someone like Jacques Nienaber. Jacques started off at the Cats as a physiotherapist and has since developed into a top-level defence coach. I later worked with him when we were both at the Stormers and I can confidently say he is the best defence coach I ever played under during my professional career. I would love to work with him again and witness the new ideas he has come up with and put in place at Munster. Over and above his strong analytical skills and the different plans he implements for each opponent, he is highly effective at communicating with the players. In my opinion, defence is all about communication and Jacques has a stellar way of conveying his message.
Sport24 asked: Brendan Venter is the new Bok defence coach. How much value will he add?
Jaque Fourie: I believe Brendan will add a considerable amount of value to the national set-up in his role as defence and exits coach. It’s a coup for the Springboks to have him on board. When I started off at the Cats in 2003, Brendan was also there and he is someone who is a fountain of knowledge and experience. We need to tap into his all-round expertise and it’s a big positive that he will be part our plans. When I worked with Brendan he made use of an up-and-in defensive shape and he will more than likely employ the same system with the Springboks. It’s fantastic to have former Springboks players in the mix at national level. Owing to the large number of young players in the squad, I would also encourage SA Rugby to get the likes of Fourie du Preez and Victor Matfield on board in consultancy roles. I believe it would do the Springboks wonders if they can implement something like that. The current players need mentors and Fourie and Victor are true legends of the game. They would be able to offer today’s Springboks invaluable on and off-field advice. It’s tough for the young players coming through if they don’t have mentors that they look up to or senior players who can help them. In training, the senior men are the ones who will say: “Listen here; you did this or that wrong, why don’t you try it this way?” There aren’t very many experienced players left in South Africa, so the young guns almost have to teach themselves all the tricks of the trade. SA Rugby needs to tap into all the knowledge and experience they can get in order to prove successful.
Sport24 asked: Have South African sides improved on attack and regressed on defence?
Jaque Fourie: Yes, I feel it’s a fair assessment this season. However, I don’t know if it’s because SA teams are not spending enough time on defence or if they are not using their time as productively as they should. There is now more of a focus on attack and when I left Japan, for example, we were only spending a quarter of an hour each week working on defence. In order to be a cohesive defensive unit you need to do a full one and a half hour defensive session if you aim to improve. Returning to Super Rugby, I believe SA teams need to be smarter in terms of their defensive execution. Defence is about attitude, organization and most importantly communication. Some teams simply don’t have effective communicators in their ranks and it makes it difficult to defend adequately. Some players in the forwards and backs have the tendency to just look ahead and forget to scan the field. My heroes growing up were 1995 World Cup-winning centre partners Hennie le Roux and Japie Mulder. They were both very talkative on the field and real leaders in their positions.
Sport24 asked: The Stormers have signed Shaun Treeby as injury cover. Is he a good addition?
Jaque Fourie: Treeby is an experienced campaigner and will add worth when he is included in the match-day squad. Breyton Paulse made a good argument when he suggested that we should rather develop our local talent but it’s professional sport and you want your team to win every weekend. Robbie Fleck and Gert Smal have done their homework in terms of who they want and after the New Zealand player’s four-month contract we will probably find that they made the right decision. The Stormers won’t just sign a player for the sake of it or one that doesn’t fit into their playing style and team culture. Fleckie gives the players the freedom on the field to play what is in front of them. He doesn’t coach players to be robots and that is what I really like about him as a coach. He’s a free spirit and he likes the players to play the situation on the field because that’s what rugby is all about.
Sport24 asked: The Chiefs and Stormers remain unbeaten. Your view on the upcoming duel?
Jaque Fourie: The Stormers won’t need reminding that the last time the Chiefs came to town the hosts were walloped 61-20. However, this is a different Stormers side and I don’t foresee them carrying the scars of the past. The Stormers are playing such an exciting brand of rugby and with New Zealander Paul Feeney in their coaching ranks you can see the difference he has brought to the team as skills coach. The Stormers are playing with a new found confidence and flair but Saturday will prove the ultimate litmus test. It’s crunch time because the Chiefs are a top quality side. They are strong at set-phase and effective with the driving maul tactic. However, the jewel in their crown is the potent runners in their backline. I would advise the Stormers to use a rush defence against the visitors. Owing to the fact the Chiefs have so many dangerous runners, the trick is to get up in the line quickly and close down their space. When you come up against New Zealand teams you have to be physical and really climb into them in the first quarter of the match. Whenever I played against the Kiwi teams, I found that if we imposed ourselves physically early on they would shy away from confrontation. If the Stormers beat the Chiefs they will announce themselves as genuine contenders for the title. It will be a great spectacle at Newlands and I’ll be cheering on the Stormers all the way.
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