Deon Fourie on RWC final appearance: That wasn't the plan

Deon Fourie on RWC final appearance: That wasn't the plan

Springbok veteran Deon Fourie recounted his incredible experience in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final against New Zealand.

The year is 2022 and at 35 years old, Fourie was well into the twilight years of his career. But a fantastic run of form, skill in multiple positions and strong leadership capabilities led to him being called up to the Springboks squad, after which he became the oldest player to make a Bok debut.

Fourie's unlikely journey continued all the way to France, where he found himself on the bench in a World Cup final. The brave Boks' brains trust had gone with the 7-1 split. But his seat was barely warm when starting hooker Bongi Mbonambi injured his knee, forcing an early change. 

"That wasn't the plan," quipped Fourie on the Behind the Ruck podcast this week.

"Bongi would have played 80 minutes, that was the plan. [But with the 7-1 split]  we always kept that one oke just in case. Kwagga [Smith] trained at scrumhalf and wing, we did all the scenarios. 

"So I was the one that would have just stayed on the bench in case something happened. Then [Mbonambi's injury] happened, and that whole plan didn't work out.

"It was also my first game against the All Blacks, the first time standing in front of the Haka, so everything was quite special. It was intense."

Speaking of intensity, Fourie revealed that the frantic final minutes of the final were particularly agonising. 

With 60 seconds remaining, Smith would steal the ball at ruck time and fling a wild pass out to the backline that was eventually fielded by Jesse Kriel, who drilled it deep. The relentless All Blacks attack resumed and they almost found space on the outside channel, but Fourie was there for the cover tackle that led to a knock-on. 

There was no time for a breather, as Fourie, who was captain at the time with Siya Kolisi off, prepared for a scrum. Even then, there was a scrum reset. The Boks packed down one final time for a chaotic scrum that resulted in Jasper Wiese going solo off the back of the scrum. Always in the treches, Fourie was there cleaning out players as Wise went to ground for the game-ending movement. 

"That last five minutes¦ stressful, tired, sore¦ I had injured my shoulder in the semi-final against England," he recollected.

"After the game, my wife was there as well. There was no celebration when I got to my wife, my head just fell on her shoulder and I told her 'liefie¦ I'm my moer in'. I was just so tired, I couldn't celebrate."

Fourie was not called up to the first Springbok alignment camp of this year, meaning that talismanic act could have been his last in the green and gold. But for the 37-year-old father of two - who still plays an integral role at the Stormers - he's probably ok with that…