Du Preez brothers beef up Bok claims
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Siblings Jean-Luc and Robert du Preez, just over two months short of England’s visit now, issued strong claims for Springbok involvement with respective, barnstorming performances in a reinvigorating Sharks triumph on Saturday.
READ: Sharks down Blues in Eden Park try-fest
The Durban-based team gave the wobbling, entire South African cause in Super Rugby 2018 a tonic by snapping an eight-game SA duck in Australasian-soil results thus far, seeing off the Blues in Auckland by a surprisingly comfortable 63-40 margin in an eventful encounter.
Incredibly, it was six tries each but that didn’t properly tell the story of the Sharks’ domination and admirable, bloody-minded commitment in a clash that was fast and loose but also murderously physical at times.
The last-named hallmark brought strapping blindside flanker Jean-Luc, 22, firmly into the picture for relish, and he was a colossal figure pretty much throughout with his ball-carrying zeal both at close quarters and in more open play - not to mention huge, knock-‘em-back tackles and ability to abruptly halt any mauling initiatives by the hosts.
But the big No 7, not long back from injury and clearly coming right back into his own at a good time, also showed a defter side to his abilities with one or two clever, attack-sparking offloads from the back of the arm in contact.
Du Preez missed the Bok end-of-year tour after a bad ankle injury in the Currie Cup final, so adding to his 10 caps went on hold, and versatile Pieter-Steph du Toit came gradually to light in the blindside role.
But if it is felt by new national team mastermind Rassie Erasmus that the Stormers forward is more useful in his customary lock position, Du Preez will be an attractive candidate on Saturday’s form for that spot in the loose trio.
On about the hour mark, and a view that didn’t really warrant alteration after the 80 minutes in Auckland, NZ commentator Tony Johnson lauded the brawny young customer as “absolutely phenomenal ... the biggest influence on the park tonight”.
Meanwhile Du Preez’s two-years-older brother, flyhalf Robert, produced arguably his most authoritative own game of the season since his return to the Durban fold from Newlands in the off-season.
Helped by his sibling and others like veteran prop Beast Mtawarira punching healthy holes in front of him, pivot Du Preez revelled in the platform to express himself as a tactical game manager and distributor.
With his willingness to get involved in the more industrial stuff too - he makes firmer hits than many others in the No 10 channel - Du Preez gave a truly rounded showing, including an astonishing accuracy off the tee that helped him post a monster 38 points of his own, including a try.
He kicked every conversion and all of his seven penalty attempts for a flawless record.
There has been understandable talk that the real “Springbok trial” later in the day’s programme was between Test incumbent Handre Pollard and wunderkind Damian Willemse at Loftus - in the Bulls v Stormers derby.
But Du Preez undoubtedly issued a “hey, what about me?” protest against the Blues, apparently helping the Sharks to a commendable landmark: only overseas side to boast a better-than-even win record in Auckland (now 7/13).
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