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Fourie double act a worry for ABs

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NZPA     25 Jul 2009     Getty Images

Halfback Fourie du Preez has been identified as a tactical maestro for the hosts while muscular centre Jaque Fourie has been compared to Australian great Stirling Mortlock.

All Blacks No 9 Brendon Leonard was under no illusion at the scale of the challenge to mark classy Bulls veteran du Preez.

"He's the best in the world at halfback, he's got attributes that no other halfback has," Leonard said.

"We had a talk about how we're going to try to shut him down. It's just about getting a good platform and going from there."

Du Preez's massive and accurate kicking game, combined with slick option-taking and execution on attack have been at the heart of two Super 14 crowns for the Bulls in the last three tournaments.

"He's probably one of the best halfbacks of the last few years," Leonard said.

"And the way he's a general for the Boks, it's something the other halves probably try to achieve."

Leonard will be making just his third test start, the others having come against relative lightweights Portugal and Italy.

He hoped to reward the faith shown in him by coach Graham Henry, who admitted it was a tough call to drop Jimmy Cowan after the Southlander had shone in the defeat of Australia last Saturday.

"I got told I was likely to get a run on the South African tour at some stage, so I was preparing for it," Leonard said.

"Obviously Jimmy is playing well and he had a great game against the Aussies in Auckland.

"I'll take my chances as best I can. I'll try to use my speed around the park, not necessarily with ball in hand but just sort of trying to get around the park.

"Obviously the dry tracks here help that side of my game out."

Meanwhile, All Blacks centre Conrad Smith had no hesitation in comparing opposite number Fourie to Mortlock.

"Both are hard defensively and lead the line out," Smith said.

"Jaque is a great player, he's stood out when he's played for the Lions and he and (second five-eighth) Jean de Villiers will certainly test our own midfield."

Governing body SA Rugby has reportedly offered Fourie, 26, a sizeable contract until beyond the 2011 World Cup in an attempt to keep him from following de Villiers overseas.

De Villiers will take up a contract with Irish giants Munster after the Tri-Nations and there is concern in South Africa that other players are eyeing European riches.

Several are believed to have extended their stay at home to play in last month's series against the British and Irish Lions before looking offshore.

Fourie has been offered a substantial contract by French club Clermont, prompting his Golden Lions province to pursue a tempting offer of their own.