Fourie 'proper English now'
South African-born flanker insists he feels proud to pull on an England jersey
Last Updated: 18/11/10 6:04pm
Fourie: makes first start on Saturday
Hendre Fourie's heritage might be as Afrikaner as they come but England's newest recruit insists he will be as proud he can possibly be when donning the red rose against Samoa on Saturday.
Fourie may have settled in Leeds but he hails from the sheep-farming town of Burgersdorp, the oldest in South Africa's eastern cape.
Given that the 31-year-old's birthplace was also a battleground in the second Boer War, it might be reasonable to assume that the English are not historically popular.
Fourie did not even start learning English until he was nine years old but in an England squad that has featured Maori, Nigerians and fellow South Africans, such facts are hardly restrictions in modern international rugby.
On Saturday, Fourie will make his first Test start, having won caps off the bench against New Zealand and Australia.
Asked whether he had any doubts about playing for England, the flanker said: "No, not really. I am still proud of where I come from, my heritage, but I am here now.
"I am qualified for England and I am just as proud to pull on an England shirt at the weekend as I would be a South Africa shirt.
"My Mum and Dad shed a few tears when I came on against New Zealand. A guy from Burgersdorp sent me a text and said it sounded like South Africa had won the World Cup again when I came on.
"It has all been massively supportive. Everybody is proud and why shouldn't they be? I have achieved one of the greatest things in the sport.
"I am proper English now. Leeds is home and I go on holiday to South Africa."
Fourie's route to the top has been nothing if not circuitous. After a provincial career with the Cheetahs hit the buffer, he joined Rotherham in the summer of 2005.
He then moved to Leeds in 2007 where he has thrived under England's World Cup-winning openside Neil Back.
Fourie's climb towards an England place started with an invitation to play for the Saxons in February.
"Last year it started snowballing. Someone asked me what I would say if Martin Johnson asked me to play for England. I said yes immediately," he recalled.
"I was not going to play for South Africa. I was chucked off their radar when I left there.
"I don't think there has been anything written about me since. Nobody gave a thought to me from that side so I am not bothered about them.
"I started with the Saxons game in February and I thought 'if I can do that why not aim higher and go for international level?' Now I am here."
Fourie excelled for Leeds in the first half of last season, when the law interpretations allowed opensides greater scope to get their hands on the ball at the breakdown.
However, he has adapted well to the changes introduced mid-way through last season that are designed to give attacking sides a greater advantage.
"He has put a run of quality performances together and shown he can play games. While people have this vision he is just a guy who is hard over the ball, he can do lots of other good things as well," England's forwards coach John Wells said.
Fourie is starting at Twickenham after England captain Lewis Moody was given a week's rest following his performances against New Zealand and Australia.
The Springboks remain very much on Fourie's radar, however, given that they come to town next weekend.
"I want to play as well as possible against Samoa to push Lewis as hard as I can for his place and to promote myself for next weekend," he added.
"If I am in the 22 for next week it will be really good. But I have to focus on this week."