The Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV: Joost over Fourie du Preez
AS part of The Glory of '95 series, three of IOL Sport's rugby writers decided to pick their ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV. Today we look at the scrumhalves.
Candidates: Joost van der Westhuyzen (1995), Fourie du Preez (2007), Faf de Klerk (2019)
JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUIZEN
The Springboks have featured at seven Rugby World Cups and at every tournament the man who has worn the No 9 on his back has become something of a Bok legend.
The late Joost van der Westhuizen, who played at the 1995, 1999 and 2003 tournaments - winning it in ’95 and captaining the team in ’99 - is widely regarded one of the greatest No 9s to have played the game.
Fourie du Preez, who also played at three tournaments - 2007, 2011 and 2015 - won it with Jake White’s team in ’07, while Faf de Klerk became a fan favourite after posing with the Webb Ellis Cup wearing just South African flag-themed briefs after the victory in Japan last year. His sniping breaks, gutsy tackling and (much-talked about) kicking game also won fans over ever since he first donned a Bok jersey - in 2016.
A young and cocky Van der Westhuizen was massive in the 1995 tournament and he rightly ranks as one of the game’s best scrumhalves, while De Klerk fulfilled his role perfectly in Japan and played a major role in the Boks going all the way.
It’s a tough choice to have to make between Van der Westhuizen and Du Preez, but for me it’s the latter man who shades this selection.
Du Preez was not only an excellent scrumhalf, but an all-round brilliant rugby player. He did everything almost perfectly and had no flaws. His reading of the game was superb, as were his pass and kicking game.
He seemed to anticipate things better than others on the field and with his pace scored some wonderful tries.
The Bok triumph in 2007 had a lot to do with Du Preez’s performance and if we’re honest the sides of 2011 and 2015 - when he wore the No 9 on his back, too - could also very easily have gone all the way. For me, Du Preez was a master, and a joy to watch.
Jacques’ choice: Fourie du Preez
With respect to Faf de Klerk and well he played last year in Japan, South Africa’s best World Cup scrumhalf is a shoot-out between Joost van der Westhuizen and Fourie du Preez.
They are legends of world rugby, and trying to choose one ahead of the other is a headache-inducing task.
Both featured for the Boks at three World Cups — Joost: ’95, ’99 and 2003; Fourie: 2007, 2011 and 2015 — and each was massively influential.
And they could not have been more different players.
Joost was all guts and glory, wearing his heart on his sleeve as he fought tooth and nail for his country. He was not an overly skilled scrumhalf, but he made up for that with physicality and tenacity.
Fourie was a deep thinking scrumhalf; he read the game superbly and he was all finesse and delicate skill. His kicking and passing were at a superior level to that of Joost, but he didn’t have the latter’s physical impact.
In 2007, Du Preez delivered one of the greatest ever scrumhalf performances when the Boks outclassed England 36-0 in a Pool game; and in 2015 he delivered the Boks into the semi-final after snatching a brilliant last-gasp try against Wales in the quarter-final.
Joost did something similar against England in a quarter-final in 1999 when his determined charge to score at the corner flag visibly lifted the Bok team he was captaining, and Janie de Beer’s drop goals did the rest.
But for me Joost’s brave tackle on a flying Jonah Lomu early in the ’95 final is the stand-out scrumhalf moment in a World Cup match.
My choice today is Joost, but it is so close that tomorrow it may be Fourie!
Mike's choice: Joost van der Westhuizen
There are two camps when it comes to Springbok scrumhalves in the modern era: Joost van der Westhuizen and Fourie du Preez.
And more recent followers of rugby would tend to back the latter, considering his influential role in the Springboks’ 2007 triumph, as well as leading his country at the 2015 edition.
Van der Westhuizen, though, was one of the original superstars in the early years of professional rugby, and became a true world great.
While he was renowned for his game-breaking ability around the fringes, Van der Westhuizen had a cool dive-pass from the base – one of which saw Stransky slot THAT drop goal against the All Blacks.
Van der Westhuizen was, like Ruben Kruger, a ‘meneer’ in that 1995 Bok team. He made things happen – always keeping forwards busy on defence, employing a decent left boot and tackling much bigger men without fear.
He had taken a number of big hits in the quarter-final against Samoa and semi-final against France, and later recalled the fact that he concealed a broken rib from coach Kitch Christie to be able to play in the final.
And then the big moment arrived – he came face-to-face with a flying Jonah Lomu, but Van der Westhuizen stood his ground and brought the All Black giant down.
He was thrust into the captaincy in 1999 after Nick Mallett left out regular skipper Gary Teichmann, and Van der Westhuizen delivered a number of long passes for Jannie de Beer to kick those five drop goals against England.
But it was the scrumhalf who got his team going with a typically opportunistic try in the left-hand corner.
In the semi-final, he went toe-to-toe with George Gregan in a titanic battle, with the Wallabies pulling through in extra time.
Van der Westhuizen, bedevilled by knee injuries in the second half of his career, called it a day in 2003 when South Africa went down to the All Blacks in the quarter-final.
Ashfak’s Choice: Joost van der Westhuizen
Joost van der Westhuizen wins a close one against Fourie du Preez.
Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV (so far): 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Hennie le Roux. 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Joost van der Westhuizen ...