Well, that didn’t take very long. In fact it took all of 20 minutes. To be fair though it was a pretty decent 20 minutes. The dust had hardly settled at the FNB Stadium after the Boks’ first win over Argentina, thanks in part to a seemingly evergreen Fourie du Preez, and SA Rugby appeared to be on the phone to every recently retired Springbok they still had contact details for.
If rumors are to be believed, SA Rugby are in talks with Jaque Fourie over a possible return to the Springboks. If that wasn’t enough, in the week after the Soccer City Test Victor Matfield set tongues wagging with a suggestion that he would consider a recall from Heyneke Meyer.
First things first, there is a massive difference between a (possible) return for Fourie and a (possible but unlikely) return for Matfield. About as massive at the latter himself.
Jaque Fourie has not retired from international rugby. He signed a 2 year deal with the Kobe Steelers after the 2011 World Cup and in order to commit fully to those 2 years he made himself unavailable for international duty. Jaque Fourie is 30 years old and still an active rugby player, who is playing in a league which appears to bring out the best in older players (in terms of shorter seasons and less physical playing conditions). Some would argue that it was always Fourie’s intention to return to South Africa and add to his 69 impressive Tests, hence not retiring outright when he left for Japan.
Victor Matfield has retired from international rugby. He is 36 years old and has not played competitive rugby for two years. As competitive as it may become, touch rugby on the beach in December doesn’t count.
Make no mistake, I was a huge fan of Victor Matfield’s work. He was the type of player that coaches built forward packs around. For a solid ten years he was one of the first names on the team-sheet. But his time as a player has come and gone. His coaching career is picking up speed at a decent rate and he should stick to where that takes him. Having started out as a line-out consultant not too long ago he is now already in charge of the Bulls’ attacking strategy. He is a brilliant rugby mind and has a passion for coaching. If he wants to be on the bus to Twickenham on the 31st of October 2015 (yes, I’m calling it – Boks are going the distance) he should focus on it being in a suit rather than a tracksuit – he’s got a much better shot of pulling it off.
As an aside, I don’t actually think Matfield is considering a comeback. Both he and Heyneke Meyer have publicly closed the door on that idea some time ago. He made a short statement at the end of his column (which, if you read it, is more negative than positive) after being flooded with questions in the wake of du Preez’s return, which the media had pounced on.
Jaque Fourie, on the other hand, is good prospect for return. He’s two years younger than Jean de Villiers and when he left he was in the form of his life. If the policy on overseas based players remains as flexible as it currently is (which is a discussion for another day), there is no reason not to have a look at what he can offer, provided of course he can add value to the team. And in terms of adding value to the team, he is going to need de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein to stop setting fire to the rain every Saturday afternoon. Seriously, our current midfield combination (with bench included) is starting to look pretty dangerous. The idea of one experienced hand blooding two highly talented youngsters is a Heyneke Meyer masterstroke. If you then take into account that we still have the likes of Juan de Jongh and Frans Steyn waiting behind the curtain, you have to wonder whether there is even a spot for Fourie.
Then again, it’s kind of like asking yourself after a huge meal if there’s a spot for dessert. Of course there is. When Jaque Fourie left South Africa he was world class and there is nothing to suggest that he will be anything less upon his return. I struggle to think of a Bok Test in which he played where he was below par. If Jean de Villiers were to get injured (and let’s face it, he’s held together by Elastoplast and Deep Heat as it is), Fourie could make the ideal experienced replacement to work with the younger guys and carry Heyneke Meyer’s vision forward.
Plus, if he returns so does Hugh Bladen’s infamous tag-line.
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