Rugby-Springboks’ ‘Mr Versatility’ is a rare breed in modern rugby

By Nick Said

TOULON, France (Reuters) – Deon Fourie was the oldest debutant in South Africa’s history when he earned a first cap against Wales three months shy of his 36th birthday last year, but that is not the only thing that makes him stand out among those in green and gold.

Fourie has a rare talent in the modern game, he can play in both the front and back row of the scrum, oftentimes in the same game.

He is expected to start in the Boks second Pool B game against Romania in Bordeaux on Sunday, but whether it will be at hooker or flanker will only be revealed when the team is announced on Wednesday evening.

He last played hooker for Lyon in 2018 but is in the Bok World Cup squad as the third option for coach Jacques Nienaber, while also being a candidate for the loose trio.

“I’ll cover both positions, we’ll see what happens in the game,” Fourie told reporters on Tuesday. “I have not played hooker at test match level, but I have been training there with the Boks for two years.

“Hopefully it is like riding a bike and I can just jump back on.”

He has bounced between the front and back of the scrum in his career, but more recently has played as a flanker and is brilliant at the breakdown.

“I was playing hooker (for the Stormers) until the end of the Super Rugby season in 2012. We had a lot of injuries in the back row and I moved to eighth man against the Melbourne Rebels,” he said.

“I played flank when we (Western Province) won the Currie Cup that year and then later moved to Lyon in France in 2014.

“I played hooker in the first year in France, second year I was flank and then third year I was hooker again, before I moved back to flank.”

Now 36, Fourie remains a key player for the Stormers and his versatility is a huge bonus to the Boks.

“I can’t put my finger on why I still feel good and can run with the young (guys),” he added.

“I did gymnastics for nine years and I’m not the biggest guy for doing weights in the gym, maybe it is up to those two things.”

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge)