Frik Du Preez was voted South African Rugby Player of the 20th century by Springbok fans, and is undeniably one of the greatest second-rows of all time
Major teams: Northern Transvaal
Country: South Africa
Test span: 1961-71
Test caps: 38 (38 starts)
Test points: 11 (1T 1C 2P)
When Frik du Preez and the All Black Colin Meads locked the scrum for a President’s Overseas XV against England in 1971 in a match to celebrate the centenary of the RFU, many thought they would never see a better pairing playing together.
The crowd certainly thought so and gave the pair a standing ovation when they left the pitch. It was a rare treat for the fans and in the modern day could only be equaled if John Eales and Martin Johnson were on the same side.
His Test career ran from 1961 to 1971, and South Africa won a World Cup in 1995, so for him to be held in such esteem nearly 40 years after he had played his last International proves what affection the South African public have for the man.
Du Preez was a force of nature, a brute of a second-row who put the fear of God into the opposition. He performed all the duties expected of him but could run with the ball as well, and kick the odd goal, as the Lions found out in the first Test of their 1968 series when du Preez sprinted in for a try from nearly 50 metres.
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The man from Northern Transvaal had announced himself to the public whilst he was an officer in the South African Air Force and played for the Defence Force side against Pretoria. The legendary Salty du Rand was in the opposition and the young upstart gave him a chasing that launched a Springbok career encompassing 87 games, including 38 Tests.
By the time he played his last International in Sydney, he was South Africa’s most capped player and the correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that du Preez was “what Bradman was to Australian cricket, Pele was to Latin American football and Colin Meads is to New Zealand rugby”. And he wasn’t wrong.