Dan du Plessis taking his chance

    2017-04-11 11:45

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - There are few who would have predicted at the start of the season that, just six games into Super Rugby 2017, the Stormers would be fielding a midfield pairing of Dan du Plessis and EW Viljoen. 

    But injuries to Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende and Huw Jones have forced coach Robbie Fleck's hand, and he was left with no choice but to trust the youngsters. 

    Du Plessis is 22 and Viljoen is 21, and on Saturday against the Chiefs they both faced New Zealand opposition for the first time in their Super Rugby careers. 

    Their midfield opponents came in the form of the experienced Stephen Donald and the highly-rated Anton Lienert-Brown - a daunting proposition for a couple of relative Super Rugby rookies. 

    But, as they have done throughout the season so far, Du Plessis and Viljoen looked like they belonged. 

    While outside centre Viljoen has set the tournament alight with his dynamic running - he has three tries from six matches - Du Plessis is going about his business by notching up some impressive numbers himself, particularly on defence. 

    He has missed just two tackles all season for a completion rate of 93.1%, while he is also a strong runner in the inside channel. 

    "I think for both of us it was our first time playing against a New Zealand teams and I'm sure there are a few other guys as well," Du Plessis told media on Monday.

    "It was a bit of a change for us. They played a really high tempo game, which is what we expected. They tested us quite a lot. I think to have pulled it through and come out with the win was really good for our confidence. We'll take a lot of learning out of that, especially me and EW and the young guys, and hopefully we can take it on to the next few games."

    The Stormers came out on the right side of a seven-try thriller at Newlands, beating the New Zealanders 34-26 to make a serious statement.

    The buzz in the camp on Monday afternoon was unmissable.  

    "We're playing a real good brand of rugby this year and I think the challenge for us against the Chiefs was to keep playing that brand of rugby and not go back into our shells," Du Plessis said.

    "That's what we did really well this weekend and hopefully we can take it on to the next few games."

    But there isn't much time to celebrate. 

    This Saturday sees the Stormers host last year's runners-up the Lions at Newlands, and Du Plessis is likely to come up against one of the most dangerous No 12s in the country in Rohan Janse van Rensburg. 

    "He's a really good player. He's got his Bok cap, which he deserved. He had a great season last year," Du Plessis said.

    "For me it's a huge challenge if I start in the 12 position again. We had them in the pre-season games and I also came up against him, which was really tough.

    "They have a good backline and play a similar brand of rugby to the New Zealand teams. Luckily we faced that this weekend and we had a little taste of that."

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