Stormers coach Robbie Fleck now only has EW Viljoen, Dan du Plessis and Dan Kriel in his centre stocks after early injuries to Springboks Juan de Jongh and Damian de Allende.
And although De Jongh and De Allende will return soon, the Stormers still need their best possible combination as they prepare to go into a few tough fixtures.
De Jongh, one of the Stormers’ co-captains last season, was ruled out for 10-12 weeks after picking up an injury in the Stormers’ pre-season warm-up game against the Lions, while De Allende joined De Jongh on the injury list in their season-opening win over the Bulls at Newlands and was also sidelined for 12 weeks.
The Stormers also took a knock when Scottish international Huw Jones tore his hamstring towards the end of the Six Nations tournament, which will keep the versatile back out for five months.
That blow probably put an end to Jones’ ties with the Cape side, as he will join the Glasgow Warriors at the end of the season.
So now there’s Viljoen, Kriel and Du Plessis - three guys who Fleck will be hoping will not be haunted by the injury ghost that has been so cruel to the Stormers so early in the season.
Viljoen, who made his Super Rugby debut against the Bulls, has impressed at outside centre so far with his defence, especially in the wider channels, and his running and smooth passing has also meant a lot to the Stormers backline.
He also had a good go against the Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday, and finished off the Stormers’ fantastic first try when he scooped up the ball beautifully to round off a superb team effort. But unlike Viljoen’s worthy contributions, Bulls recruit Kriel has made a less than stellar impact. He’s gotten the basics right up until now and there have been a few good moments by the midfielder. But it hasn’t been good enough to keep Du Plessis out of that No 13 jersey.
Du Plessis, who has mostly come off the bench for Kriel, has done well whenever he’s been on the pitch. Against the Bulls, Kriel came off the bench for De Allende, while Du Plessis was left out of the matchday 23. And against the Jaguares in Round Two, Du Plessis nursed a niggle that he’d picked up during training.
Against the Kings, Du Plessis got a starting chance in the absence of then-injured Kriel and he produced a solid performance with strong running, some nice, space-creating passes and hard work off the ball.
Against the Sunwolves, he again lifted the Stormers’ game with his passing, his running lines and his defence after coming on for Kriel, who made a few decent carries but also a number of mistakes, including losing the ball in the tackle (twice) and slipping up defensively.
And it’s not like Du Plessis hasn’t shown what he can do on a number of occasions already.
Although his season was cut short last year, he contributed greatly to Western Province and the Stormers in his few games before injury had the final say.
He showed then that he brings quality on both attack and defence, and that his passing game is strong, to say the least. He has that polished feel about him. He’s strong in the tackle.
He’s an elusive centre with an eye for a gap. He’s creative.
And although he hasn’t had many chances so far this season, he’s shown some of those traits this year as well.
But now he needs to be given a real chance; a starting berth ahead of Kriel.
He deserves it.