An old warrior! Deon Fourie perfectly personifies Springboks’ grit in Chasing the Sun 2

All Blacks outside centre Rieko Ioane is tackled by Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Deon Fourie during the 2023 Rugby World Cup final. Picture: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

All Blacks outside centre Rieko Ioane is tackled by Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Deon Fourie during the 2023 Rugby World Cup final. Picture: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

Published Apr 23, 2024


The Bongi Mbonambi, Tom Curry ‘wit kant’ saga dominated the Springboks’ build up to the Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks.

The uncertainly during World Rugby’s investigation of the allegation was especially stressful for the Springboks because Mbonambi was the only recognised world-class hooker left in the group to play the All Blacks, after they had earlier opted to replace the injured Malcolm Marx with Handre Pollard.

Bongi Mbonambi had played 75 minutes in the quarter-final against France and then the full 80 minutes against England in the semis, basically outlining his importance to the team.

The back-up hooker was 37-year-old veteran Deon Fourie, who had been picked in the World Cup squad as a utility forward, but who made a name for himself as an openside flanker over the last few years. In fact, the last time he packed down in the No 2 jersey prior to the World Cup was in 2018.

So, essentially, the Springboks were desperate for Mbonambi to play.

What we didn’t know ahead of the final, and which was revealed in the Chasing the Sun 2 finale, is that Fourie was actually struggling with a shoulder injury going into the World Cup final. This made the stakes even higher for the Springboks to get Mbonambi on the field.

“They asked me during the week ‘how is the shoulder?’ and I said it’s feeling better every day. But it was probably because of the anti-inflammatories I took during the week,” Fourie said early into the episode.

Mbonambi was eventually cleared to play, but, as fate would have it, as was the case in the 2019 World Cup final against England in Japan, the brutish hooker got injured in the third minute of the final, pushing Fourie squarely into the spotlight.

Fourie had a couple of outings at hooker during the World Cup, getting valuable minutes against Tonga and Romania. But he also had the added burden of worrying about his father, who was back home in South Africa in ICU.

But when he took the field against the All Blacks - a life long dream for the veteran, who thought his chances of ever wearing the green-and-gold was over before Rassie Erasmus called him up in 2022 - he was ready to give it all for his country.

“The (build up) was stressful, but knowing what Deon can do ...mentally there aren’t many players tougher than him,” scrum coach Daan Human said during the final episode of Chasing the Sun 2.

But Fourie, with basically one shoulder functioning properly on the biggest stage of them all, never took a step back.

He played his heart for 77 minutes like the warrior he is. He even had to put in more of a shift than usual, as the Springboks played with 14 men for 20 minutes because of the yellow cards to Siya Kolisi and Cheslin Kolbe.

In fact, it was Fourie who captained the Boks for 10 minutes in the final when Kolisi was banished to the sin bin after a yellow card.

In the end, his shoulder was completely gone and his hamstring and calves were cramping. But, when the Springboks had to scrum to get through to win the cup, he gave it all before the tears of glory streamed down his face when the final whistle was blown.

“We will work until the end for each other. We just never stop working,” Fourie said.

“For you to not get up. To walk your first couple of steps ... it’s selfish, because you are privileged to be in that position.

“I started cramping in both my hammies and my calves. The one scrum fell and my shoulder got caught as well and I just heard funny noises in my shoulder. But I knew I had to soldier on because I can’t go off, because if I go off we play with 14 men.”

Fourie’s grit and determination perfectly personifies the Springboks’ selfless approach which played a big part in their World Cup win.

Deon Fourie will go down in South African rugby folklore as the ultimate warrior.