Jean-Luc ready to work his magic again
CAPE TOWN - If you’re looking for motivational quotes directed at athletes working towards that comeback after injury, all you need to do is hit Google. There’s an abundance of them.
It’s a normal part of sport.
And one person who has had his fair share of injury setbacks is Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis.
It’s been a bumpy last few years for the pivot, and at one point his recurring injury raised concerns that it could be a career-threatening one.
After suffering a minor groin injury in a Super Rugby outing against the Jaguares in March 2017, Du Plessis spent the best part of the year on the sidelines. It became progressively worse, and what was initially thought to be a groin injury turned out to be a strain on the pubic bone, and then a hip problem. After that first hip surgery, though, the pubic bone problem persisted.
This prompted the son of the “Prince of Wings”, legendary former Springbok Carel, to travel to the United States to seek specialist advice and undergo further surgery in December that year.
After months of more rehabilitation, he eventually made his comeback in a friendly against Griquas in 2018, only for the injury curse to fall on him again, this time in the form of a cracked rib.
In another devastating turn, Du Plessis found himself sidelined once more with the same hip problem in 2019. But during this year’s Super Rugby season, the little we had of it, it seemed like Du Plessis had finally side-stepped the eager grasp of injury.
With Damian Willemse having started at No 10 in all but one of the Stormers’ six games before the competition was suspended indefinitely, Du Plessis featured off the bench, and delivered every single time.
His game management couldn’t be faulted, he did what he had to do, and he also reminded the rugby crowd of his exciting, instinctive side at times remember that skip pass to Sergeal Petersen (when he couldn’t find Jamie Roberts up in support on his outside) that set up Ruhan Nel’s red-clock, match-snatching try against the Lions to secure their first win at Ellis Park since 2015?
That was proper. It also showed his quick thinking and vision. And it was a crystal-ball moment into what he can do for this team if he manages to spend more time on the training field than in rehab.
He can create opportunities and he sure has a big work rate, although that constantly-busy work ethic often sees him ending up in situations most coaches would rather he not like stuck in a ruck while his scrumhalf is looking to get things going on attack.
But that can be worked on.
Point is, Du Plessis’ growth and consistency have until fairly recently been ravaged by injury, so to see him go the way he had been going for six matches - even in the tough ones - prior to the suspension of Super Rugby was promising.
Dobson has made it clear that he regards Willemse as the future of the union, that we all know.
But remember how as a rookie in 2016 Du Plessis proved his worth with composed, sometimes superb, performances spiced with the occasional slick and skilful touch.
He was the wizard behind some magical moments back then. And while he has had to endure a torrid stop-start run, that magic is still there.
That is certainly one of the things to look forward to once Super Rugby is back on our screens, just in case you were looking for some.@WynonaLouw