The 36-year-old was in outstanding form for the Stormers in the defence of their United Rugby Championship (URC) title again this past season and many expected him to start for the Boks in the Rugby Championship in the absence of injured skipper Siya Kolisi.
But instead, Fourie has had to wait his turn as first Marco van Staden and then Kwagga Smith operated as a fetcher against the Wallabies and All Blacks, with the former again starting against Argentina at Ellis Park.
Fourie has only got 15 minutes against the Aussies at Loftus Versfeld. After Van Staden excelled in that game, the Stormers stalwart will want to show Bok coach Jacques Nienaber that he can have as big an influence in a Test match that he does in the URC after being named in the starting line-up yesterday.
His scavenging abilities at the breakdowns would free up powerful ball-carriers Jasper Wiese and Franco Mostert to punch holes in the Argentina defence. If that strategy proves successful, Fourie could just force Nienaber’s hand to get more game-time at the World Cup – especially with the injured Kolisi still not back on the pitch.
But while Fourie’s selection was a positive move by Nienaber yesterday, the decision to start Bongi Mbonambi and not Joseph Dweba is hard to understand.
It is commendable that Mbonambi has been handed the captaincy – although Lukhanyo Am may have been the better candidate for Saturday’s clash in Buenos Aires (kick-off 9.10pm) – but does he really need more game-time at this stage of the build-up to the World Cup?
It would have been wiser to actually wrap Mbonambi in cotton wool, as has been done with Malcolm Marx, who did not travel to South America.
Dweba only played the last 18 minutes of the opening Rugby Championship game in Pretoria, with Mbonambi starting at Loftus and in Auckland, and Marx in Johannesburg last week. Dweba has just five Test caps to his name, and needs all the experience he can get to dispel any worries ahead of France 2023.
In the same breath, Fourie also needs time at hooker in the second half, as he is the fourth-choice emergency option in the front row in case of a late injury-enforced changed. That is unlikely to happen in Buenos Aires, as his Stormers teammate needs the minutes.
It is a pity that Lood de Jager is ill and unable to play, as he also needs to rediscover the fire that made him a star at the 2019 World Cup. In that respect, at least Jean-Luc du Preez will get a run in the second row after half-time – and the same applies to Evan Roos at No 8.
Andre Esterhuizen will want to continue where he left off against the Wallabies a few weeks ago, as he got the nod ahead of someone like Damian Willemse, who will want to put the difficult encounter at flyhalf against the All Blacks behind him when he runs out in the No 15 jersey.
With Willie le Roux in top form right now, Willemse must take charge as the fullback in a similar manner – be commanding under the high ball, add a spark on attack, and bring relief with his boot.