CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa's Rugby World Cup-winning scrumhalf Fourie du Preez announced his retirement on his 34th birthday on Thursday, ending a 15-year professional career that included world, southern hemisphere and Super Rugby titles for a player rated at one time the best No. 9 in the world.
Du Preez played his final game for the Springboks at last year's World Cup, where South Africa lost in the semifinals to eventual champion New Zealand.
He ended his career at club level with Suntory of Japan, where he also won two national titles.
"Rugby has been such an integral part of my life in the last two decades, so a lot of deliberation and thought have gone into my decision to retire," Du Preez said in a statement released by the South African Rugby Union.
Du Preez was a pivotal member of South Africa's World Cup-winning team of 2007. He also won the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship in 2004 and 2009, a series against the British and Irish Lions in 2009, and three Super Rugby titles with the Pretoria-based Bulls.
He played 76 tests for the Springboks between 2004 and 2015 and, in a marker of his success, won more games than he lost against South Africa's southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand and Australia.
Du Preez was lauded for his passing and kicking skills, and his tactical vision. Injured for much of last season, he returned to South Africa's squad for the World Cup, took over the captaincy from the injured Jean de Villiers, and scored a match-winning try in the quarterfinal against Wales. South Africa was edged 20-18 by the All Blacks in the semis.
Rated as a big talent from an early age, Du Preez was also on South Africa's 2002 junior World Cup-winning team.