I would pick Deon Fourie for the Springboks this season and view him as an insurance policy for the 2023 World Cup in France, writes Mark Keohane.
The DHL Stormers veteran will be 37 years-old when the Springboks arrive in France next September to defend the World Cup won in Japan in 2019.
The DHL Stormers play Edinburgh in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town this weekend and another big performance from Fourie is a given.
Each week on social media I applaud the qualities of the Stormers and Western Province senior statesman, and each week I cop abuse from the very same ignorant mob who mocked me when I suggested Schalk Brits could add value to the Springboks in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup. That same mob was out in full force when I made a case for Morne Steyn to be part of the Springboks Test match squad for the three-Test series against the British & Irish Lions.
‘What?’ screamed the mob. ‘Move on man …’
Typically, the response was to get in a 19 year-old as part of the youthful cheerleading.
Kids don’t win teams World Cups and they don’t win teams big series’ like the British & Irish Lions.
There is nothing in sport that can compare with a veteran, with global experience, still playing with the enthusiasm of a teenager and producing player of the match performances with great regularity.
Fourie, in 2022, has been that player for Western Province and significantly for the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship.
Brits, primarily a hooker but blessed with such a range of skill that he could comfortably have played in the midfield, was massive for the Springboks at the 2019 World Cup, even though he did not play in the final.
Brits was part of the leadership group, captained the Springboks at No 8 as a 38 year-old and added a dimension to the well-being of those players not in the play-off match day squads. His influence was immense and the Springboks were beneficiaries of a professional career that totalled 380 matches.
Equally influential was Steyn in the Springboks winning the Test series against the Lions.
Steyn, having retired from Test rugby at the end of 2021, is still playing for the Bulls in the URC and Currie Cup and will end the season having taken his professional first class match total past 420.
Fourie, who has played 96 times for Western Province, 91 for Lyon, 84 for the Stormers and 42 for Grenoble, will end the domestic season on 350-plus matches. He shows no sign of letting up and still leads from the front.
Fourie’s URC form would have everyone raving if he was 20 years-old. The fact that he is 35 years-old should be of no consideration. His numbers are tangible and his off-field influence are intangibles with possibly even more currency.
But for the purposes of the ill-informed and ignorant, it is worth repeating just this one URC statistic: Fourie, in the League was among the leading turnover specialists.
The Springbok coaching duo of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have never been afraid to invest in veterans, and hopefully in the next few months they will also acknowledge the form of Fourie.