Springboks

Du Preez twins: First-time allies for Boks?

2018-05-18 10:08
Jean-Luc du Preez (Gallo)

Cape Town – They can be hard to tell apart, especially on gloomy or muddy occasions.

It’s perfectly understandable, considering that Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez are twins, have near-identical, economical hairstyles and sport massively similar (pretty massive too) physical dimensions.

They also, often enough, represent two thirds of a Sharks loose trio in Super Rugby - as will be the case on Saturday when they run out against the Chiefs in Durban (15:05).

Being reunited now with Philip van der Walt, who has replaced Jacques Vermeulen, hardly helps the identification parade as he carries certain similarities in appearance to the Du Preez boys, as well.

But these are tantalising times for the 22-year-old twins, given how much closer they arguably are to a family first: playing for South Africa in the same Test match, and perhaps even both as starters.

That scenario has inched closer at least partly for injury-related reasons.

For one thing, blindside flank Jean-Luc now seems favourite to be stationed at No 7 (if not for the seemingly experimental contest against Wales in Washington a week earlier, then in the first Test against England in Johannesburg) as incumbent Pieter-Steph du Toit may well be more urgently required at lock now that both Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth are on the side-lines.

Dan is also much likelier now to make the cut, as eighth-man, due to the lingering uncertainty over Bok captain Warren Whiteley’s knee problem; the popular Lions-based figure would be well short of a gallop even if he suddenly enters the radar for the three-Test series.

But that is also not to say that either can yet be described as an absolute shoe-in for the Boks, which makes compelling performances in the two remaining Sharks games before the “window” (Chiefs, then Jaguares in Buenos Aires next weekend) important to their respective chances.

It may not have escaped Dan’s attention, in particular, that established Bok hardman Duane Vermeulen is anticipated to end his three-year Toulon career on Friday night, regardless of any onward progress by the club, as they entertain Lyon in a French Top 14 quarter-final.

We do not yet know whether new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus intends involving him immediately – or even at all – in his plans, although Vermeulen’s vast experience and grunt are extremely difficult to overlook, assuming he is currently in suitable physical shape.

Remember that Vermeulen resurfaced, a welcome event, for South Africa in two Tests at the end of last year, wearing the No 8 jersey - he could quite feasibly play blindside flank as well - and certainly playing his part in respective triumphs over France and Italy.

In those very Tests, Dan du Preez made fleeting debut appearances off the bench, getting a nominal seven minutes on the side of the scrum against the French and a further six against the Italians.

But then his chance came for a start, and in his preferred position, when Vermeulen was ruled out of the closing Test against Wales as it fell outside the designated window period and he had to return to Toulon duties.

Du Preez was promising enough, rather than earth-shattering, as the Boks lost 24-22 to a greatly weakened Welsh combination. He made some strong tackles and demonstrated one skilful inside pass on attack.

His sibling missed that Springbok tour, as Jean-Luc inconveniently injured his ankle in the Currie Cup final against Western Province in the immediate lead-up, meaning he could not add to his 10 Test caps (though still only two starts so far).

Now the planets may be aligning for them to go about their robust work together in national colours, even if purists might harbour certain fears over Bok creativity and elusiveness levels among the loosies if the brawny specimens crack the nod at seven and eight.

But there is still a bit of work to be done for the Sharks in the meantime, and each could do with more ticks than crosses over the next couple of weekends in Erasmus’s notebook …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  jean-luc du preez  |  rugby
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