Dan du Plessis against Wandisile Simelane can light up Stormers, Lions clash
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Cape Town - The swag seems to be back in Dan du Plessis’ game in recent months – and it’s no coincidence, as he is back in his preferred inside centre berth at the Stormers.
Du Plessis had to operate mainly at outside centre since the resumption of rugby in South Africa last September following the Covid-19 hard lockdown.
But he was in top form during the Stormers’ United Rugby Championship tour of Europe in the No 12 jersey, which is where he first made his name as one to watch in the future.
Injuries hampered his progress in the past as well, but now he is showing the type of play that marked him as a potential Springbok that would follow in the footsteps of his father Michael, who also made things happen in the backline in his day for Western Province and Eastern Province.
“I definitely feel that way as well (that he has enjoyed good form). I obviously had to help out at 13 over the last year and a half or so, which is not my natural position. I started off there, but went back to 12, and it was the first time in a long time,” Du Plessis said this week ahead of Saturday’s URC clash with the Lions at Cape Town Stadium (5pm kick-off).
“But I am really enjoying playing back at 12, defensively as well, and looking forward to that.
“I thoroughly enjoy playing with Ruhan (Nel, who is at outside centre). Defensively, he strengthens me as well, as he is one of the best defensive 13s in South Africa, and probably out there.
On attack, he runs aggressive lines and is not scared to take it on himself as well.”
Du Plessis, 26, will be keen to make a big impression on Saturday against the Lions if he hopes to become part of the Springbok conversation ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am are entrenched as the first-choice Bok centres, while the likes of Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel and Damian Willemse are the next-in-line in midfield.
But those last three are utility backs as well, so the URC presents Du Plessis with a great opportunity to push for higher honours.
And coming up against someone like Lions centre Wandisile Simelane on Saturday is an ideal chance for Du Plessis to prove his worth. Simelane was part of a Bok training squad earlier this year, and is highly rated by the national coaches.
Du Plessis, though, also brings a unique set of skills, with his soft hands, hard running with the ball and ability to find a gap on the outside adding real punch to the Stormers attack, so it will be a fascinating duel between two exciting talents.
“He is obviously a very talented player. I have come up against him a few times, and he’s got good feet and ball skills.
“But I can say that about most of their backline, as they’ve got very good attacking outside backs – Simelane as well,” Du Plessis said.
“We will look for the strengths and weaknesses in their attack and defence, and look to target them there.”