Johannesburg – After almost a two year’s absence from the Springbok team, veteran centre Jaque Fourie said he felt like a kid again when he joined his teammates who assembled this week in Johannesburg.
Fourie has been plying his trade in Japan for the Kobe Steelers for the last 18 months and had made himself unavailable for Springbok selection.
The veteran of 69 Tests last played for the Springboks in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal defeat to the Wallabies, in New Zealand, before he left for Japan.
His selection – as part of the 32-man squad for the end-year tour of Wales, Scotland and France – would also mark his first involvement with the team under Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“It is exciting – I feel like a kid again – there are new structures and a new coach,” Fourie said on Friday.
“It is good to be back in the Springbok environment again and I am looking forward to getting a chance again whenever it is.”
Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez – who plays for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan – made his comeback during the Rugby Championship and seemingly smoothed the path for Fourie to get back into the side.
The 30-year-old Fourie said he had kept a watchful eye on the Springboks’ progress under Meyer and, he had been impressed by what he had seen.
“I’ve been following every single game, even though it is a little bit late there in Japan, and it has been exciting,” he said.
“There is a lot of good, young talent and the game plan we play is exciting. It is moving in the right direction and I think it is winning rugby.”
Fourie had recently signed a two-year extension to his contract with the Steelers, which allowed him to play Test rugby if selected, and opened the door for his call-up into the Springbok squad.
The Springbok centre said the decision to leave South Africa to play his rugby in Japan proved to be the right decision as he believed it would ultimately extend his career.
“Playing in Japan will prolong my career by two or three seasons. My body is in good condition and mentally I am fresh,” Fourie said.
“So hopefully there are a couple of good years ahead of me that I can milk out of it. I feel really good and hopefully it will show on the field.”
While incumbent South African outside centre JJ Engelbrecht had performed admirably this season, the combination of captain Jean de Villiers and Fourie in midfield had been a potent one over the years.
The duo held the record for the most appearances for a centre combination in Test rugby with the 26 matches, and Fourie said the prospect of extending the partnership was one to which he looked forward.
“Jean has been playing the best rugby of his career. We’ve always had a good relationship playing together and hopefully we can pick up where we left off,” Fourie said.
Meyer was confident Fourie – like De Villiers has demonstrated this season – still had his best rugby ahead of him.
“It is great to have him here. He is one of the best organisers of the backline I’ve ever seen and he’s just got a presence around him,” the Springbok coach said on Friday.
“Yesterday when we were kitting up, I saw him for the first time and he said: 'I feel like a little boy again playing for the Springboks', and he didn’t think it will happen again. It was the same thing for Bakkies Botha and that means a lot to me.” – Sapa