It has been a while since the Springboks last selected an out and out fetcher or breakdown specialist. The All Blacks wont remember that era too fondly, as it was then that they suffered the most defeats in a single season to the Springboks. We have to take a throw back (fitting that it's a Thursday) all the way to 2009 to understand why. This was the year of the rise of Heinrich Brussow, a player who proved to be the proverbial thorn in the kiwi's side.
Heinrich Brussow enjoyed a meteoric rise to the Springboks after strong showings against the British & Irish Lions for the Cheetahs. It was however, in the Tri Nations (now Rugby Championship) though that he really made a name for himself. Brussow was a menace in the breakdown, he was short and stocky and once he got over the ball, there was just no moving him without your team losing possession. So effective he was at the breakdown that he not only went toe to toe with Richie McCaw, but got the better of him over 3 tests in 2009.
The role played by Brussow against the All Blacks can not be under estimated. Without their clean ball and quick rucks, the All Blacks struggled to get their deadly backline moving, allowing the bigger Springbok players to generate some solid go forward ball, whilst also managing to direct where the game was played. If it wasn't penalties for Morne to slot over, it was a turn over for Habana or JP to feed off out wide.
Fast forward to 2022 and we have another player on the rise as a fetcher. Deon Fourie is by no means a young gun like Brussow and it is incredible that he has achieved his first Springbok call up at the age of 35, but he is just as effective. Fourie has had an incredible season for the Stormers, he is the top ranked player with 28 turnovers and has rightly earned a call up to the Bok squad on the back of this. His ability to dip into a ruck and pop out with the ball is unreal and whilst his constant black eyes and cut up face show the effort he puts in, in the 'dark places'.
Deon Fourie is solely responsible for the fact that the Stormers were in with a shout when the second half kicked off. In the first 40 minutes they hadn't been playing very well, but thanks to the heroics of Deon, the Bulls hadn't been able to accumulate too much scoreboard pressure. Once the Stormers passes started to stick, they didn't have too large a mountain to climb and were able to secure their maiden URC trophy. Deon Fourie was rightly named man of the match for his efforts.
There is plenty of competition in the loose trio at the moment so he will have is work cut out for him making his way into the match day 23. If we are to go with a horses for courses selection policy though, then my money would be placed heavily on Fourie's involvement against the All Blacks. I firmly believe that Deon would be able to replicate what Brussow did to them in 2009 and could just prove a vital cog in the Springbok machine as we look to topple them twice in a row on home soil this year.
I would love to see him earning some game time against Wales in July but I firmly believe his biggest contributions could come against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship and against France in November. France have the greatest ruck speed of any international side at the moment and slowing that down will be crucial to containing Du Pont and Ntamack's free running game.
A truly deserved call up should be closely followed by a well deserved match day selection. What he does with this will be up to him. What I am saying now is that if we want back to back wins against our biggest rivals, Fourie and his thieving ways must find space in the match 23 at both Mbombela and Ellis Park in August this year.