For Vintage Fourie Age Is Just A Number

The United Rugby Championship has been brilliant in terms of allowing young talent a chance to consistently play at a high level, develop and impress national selectors. But there has been a beauty in how certain veterans of the game have played such impactful roles ushering in the youth and contributing to their respective teams’ success.

DHL Stormers loose-forward Deon Fourie is one such character.

Fourie, at 35 years old, has been at the forefront of a DHL Stormers season in which they have secured a home quarter-final as the South African Shield winner. It has also been the season in which Fourie’s career has come full circle, with the veteran having made his senior debut in Cape Town in 2006.

In the last 16 years, bouncing between hooker, flank and No 8, Fourie played in some great DHL Stormers and Western Province sides, before spending seven years in France where he represented Lyon 91 times and Grenoble 42 times.

His experience and knowledge has shone through in a relatively young DHL Stormers side, and his ability to play hooker and loose-forward has given coach John Dobson great comfort going into the play-offs, especially with the squad’s two frontline hookers injured.

Fourie attributes his longevity to not having experienced serious injury problems, which speaks volumes to his conditioning given the combative nature of his role as the team’s turnover king.

Fourie, as a youngster in his debut season, quickly announced himself at the bottom of a ruck as a player who knew his way around those dark alleys. Coaches speak of some players being born in those alleys and others who do everything to avoid being caught up in those alleys.

Fourie is of the former and that is why he has been such a popular selection, regardless of where he has played his rugby.

In a professional sporting climate that is obsessive over age, players like Fourie are proving in URC that there is such value to be had in backing the experience of older players, granted they are physically primed and still performing. While they may not be around forever, the value of the one or two years that they spend helping a side to play-off positions, and schooling the next generation, is invaluable.

The URC has been breathing life into the last seasons of several older players who have chosen to return to South Africa to complete those rugby journeys that have lasted nearly two decades.

Equally a guy like (Deon) Fourie has breathed life into his team and the league, not only through his years of experience but through his undeniable passion for DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers.

‘Coming back now, it is in a very different context to when I left. The Schalk Burgers and Francois Louws aren’t around anymore, but what you do have is a group of very energetic young guys, and “Dobbo” (John Dobson) is doing a fantastic job of managing this dynamic,’ says Fourie. ‘I am loving the pace of the game in the league and the very different styles of the opposition. I am also loving the energy of the youngsters. When I left the average age was around 26 or 27 and now it sits between 22 and 24, so you have a league full of youngsters where the fitness levels are at a high.’

Fourie at 35 years old has exuded the energy and hunger of Fourie at 20, and players like him, across the franchises, have just added to the quality of the URC as a whole.

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