CAPE TOWN - Stormers centre Dan du Plessis faced New Zealand opposition for the first time in his young Super Rugby career on Saturday, and he looked good. As good as he’s looked in every game he’s played in this season.
The son of former Western Province and Springbok centre Michael du Plessis, Dan has put his strong running skills on show in this season’s games that he’s featured in for the Stormers, while mixing that running up with lovely passes.
But it’s his defence that has been his most stand-out contribution, with consistent hard tackling and missing just two in the three games he’s played.
And after that huge confidence boost that came with beating the Chiefs 34-26 at Newlands and avenging last year’s quarter-final nightmare, Du Plessis is hoping that the Stormers can take their early momentum into the next few big games that await.
“I think we’re playing a really good brand of rugby this year, and I think the challenge against the Chiefs was to keep playing that brand of rugby and not go back into our shells. And I think that’s what we did really well. Hopefully we can take it into the next few games,” Du Plessis said.
“It was a bit of a change for us - they played a high tempo game and that’s what we expected. They tested us quite a lot and I think to come out with a win was really good for our confidence.
"We’ll take a lot of learning out of that, especially us, the young guys. It’s really important for us to go to New Zealand on a high. And I believe the boys can do that.”
But Du Plessis knows that the Chiefs didn’t just give them a taste that they’ll have to remember, because the Stormers will face that high-tempo game consistently from now on. Not only against the Kiwis, but also against the Lions at Newlands on Saturday (5.15pm kickoff).
Looking ahead at the round eight clash with the departing Johan Ackermann’s team, Du Plessis said that the Stormers were looking forward to the match, which will be their last one at home before they go on a three-match tour to New Zealand to face the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
“They have a good backline and they play a similar brand of rugby to the New Zealand teams. So luckily we faced that this weekend,” he said.
Speaking of the Lions backline a definite man the Stormers will have to watch this weekend will be inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg, and Du Plessis needed no briefing on the Bok centre’s abilities.
“He’s obviously a really good player. He had a great season last year. It’s a huge challenge for me if I start at No 12 again. We had them in the pre-season games and I also went up against him and it was tough,” Du Plessis said.
“It should be a good challenge for us, it should be a good challenge for me. We’re looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, the Stormers are still sweating over the fitness of Springbok lock duo Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who are struggling with tight calves and a swollen knee respectively, while flank Cobus Wiese is suspected to have dislocated his shoulder against the Chiefs.
Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak could be fit and ready for the game against the Lions, but he still has to pass a couple of concussion tests.
Stormers forwards coach Russell Winter on Mondays said that loose forward Johan du Toit is “fit and ready” after suffering a knee injury soon after arriving in Cape Town from the Sharks during the pre-season.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck will name his side to face the Lions on Thursday.