Fourie du Preez and Joost van der Westhuizen have earned the praise of two leading British journalists tasked with naming the best-ever scrumhalves.
The Times duo Stephen Jones and Stuart Barnes, a former England flyhalf, reached consensus at the top of their respective lists with Wales and British & Irish Lions star of the 1970s Sir Gareth Edwards on top.
Jones, writing about Edwards, said he was ‘a very, very special athlete and player” and a ‘talent, frankly from another planet’.
Barnes wrote that he ‘watched [Edwards] walk on water during the Lions’ two greatest tours [1971 in New Zealand and 1974 in South Africa]. It was no coincidence that the iron grip of the All Blacks and Springboks was broken in the era of Edwards’.
Jones did not include Van der Westhuizen on his list with Du Preez ranked fifth, while Barnes made room for both Bok greats with Du Preez second to Edwards and Van der Westhuizen ranked sixth.
In adding Justin Marshall near the bottom of his list, his described the All Black No 9 as ‘dogged and determined’ and ‘a ninth forward’.
‘Like Joost [van der Westhuizen] he wasn’t the prettiest of performing nines, but there have been none more dogged or determined than the enduring Kiwi,’ he added.
STEPHEN JONES: 1 Gareth Edwards (Wales), 2 Matt Dawson (England), 3 Nick Farr-Jones (Australia), 4 David Loveridge (NZ), 5 Fourie du Preez (South Africa), 6 George Gregan (Australia), 7 Gary Armstrong (Scotland), 8 Mike Phillips (Wales), 9 Rob Howley (Wales), 10 Terry Holmes (Wales).
STUART BARNES: 1 Edwards, 2 Du Preez, 3 Gregan, 4 Aaron Smith (NZ), 5 Loveridge, 6 Van der Westhuizen, 7 Conor Murray (Ireland), 8 Howley, 9 Justin Marshall (NZ), 10 Fabien Galthie (France).
During lockdown, the SA Rugby magazine team created their dream Springbok side since readmisison to world sport and Du Preez earned his spot at No 9 with a uninamous decision.
In his submission, editor Craig Lewis wrote: ‘There’s only one master at scrumhalf that could possibly be picked. The 76-Test-capped Fourie du Preez would probably make most World XV selections, and if picking him in his prime, he’s probably the first name I’d scribble down for this best Springbok XV of the past 25 years.
‘Of course, the late great Joost van der Westhuizen would be another worthy contender, but the 2007 incarnation of Du Preez dominating the World Cup is the one that remains at the forefront of my memory.’
Jon Cardinelli wrote: ‘The Boks were always a different beast when Fourie du Preez was pulling the strings from the No 9 position. The accuracy of his passing and kicking game often fractured opposition defences and provided the Boks with opportunities to score.
‘One of the best scrumhalves – and indeed best players – to have ever represented the Boks,’ he wrote.