Fourie du Preez sights the strength of Japanese rugby as the reason for his impressive return to international action.
Springbok scrum-half Fourie du Preez made an impressive return to the national team when he came off the bench during the hosts 73-13 crushing of Argentina on Saturday.
Du Preez is arguably the finest number nine ever produced by South Africa, but his recall was not enthusiastically received by everybody.
The doubters pointed out that he had not played a Test match since the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and that the rugby in Japan, where du Preez currently plays for champions Santory Sungoliath, is not competitive enough to prepare the experienced scrum-half for the intensity and speed of international rugby.
However, the World Cup winning scrum-half looked as sharp as ever when he came onto the field, turning in a performance that suggests South Africa are a far stronger team with him in the squad. Speaking after the match, du Preez explained that the quality of rugby in Japan is underestimated by the rugby public.
“People say the rugby there is weak, but nobody really ever sees it. It's of a high quality. My club, Suntory, are influenced by Eddie Jones, who was involved there for a long time,” he said.
“I went there to escape the pressure and limelight, but it was one of the happiest decisions I've made in my life. Japan changed my life completely. My family and I are learning so much… my rugby is different nowadays, my life is different.”
“I've learnt a lot at my club. It was the best decision for my rugby and for me as a person. The Japanese culture gave me a new sense of values of respect and patience.”
His final comment paid Japanese Rugby the greatest compliment. “The pace against Argentina was a lot similar to the rugby in Japan,” he asserted.
Unfortunately, du Preez has not travelled with the Boks to Mendoza for Saturday's Test there as he will only be available for the home games in the Rugby Championship. He has been replaced in the squad by Piet van Zyl.