Jean-Luc taking his Stormers chance
Cape Town - One of the most pleasing aspects of the Stormers' 57-31 win over the Rebels on Saturday was the form of flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Thrown into the deep end in round 7 following injuries to Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman, the 22-year-old Du Plessis initially showed promising signs as he guided the Stormers to wins over the Sunwolves and Reds either side of a narrow loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.
But the home loss to the Waratahs that was followed by a shocking draw in Singapore against the Sunwolves and then defeat at Loftus proved to be a tough period for the young playmaker.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck, from the very beginning of the flyhalf injury crisis, said he would back the youngsters in the system and refused to look for emergency cover from outside.
Based on Du Plessis's showing against the Rebels - he notched up 27 points and kicked 9 from 11 - that was the right decision.
Du Preez, meanwhile, is back playing for the Western Province Currie Cup side and will be available for selection when the Stormers return to South Africa for their final group stage match against the Kings and their (almost certain) quarter-final at Newlands.
But, given that Du Preez has not played Super Rugby since the second week of the season, it is hard to see him being picked ahead of Du Plessis despite being considered the franchise's No 1 flyhalf at the start of the campaign.
While Fleck is pleased with the direction that Du Plessis is moving in, he knows that there is still a long way to go.
"I've always said it about Jean-Luc ... I really rate the kid. I think he's a talented young rugby player and he's got all the skills in the book," said Fleck.
"He's got a wonderful rugby brain and he really does think about the game.
"But he's certainly still a work in progress. He's by no means the finished article and he's still in and out of games and he still makes some basic errors."
Fleck has been encouraging his young flyhalf to focus on getting the small things right.
"The main focus for us with him is to just try and keep it really simple and do the basics well and when he does that he's really an effective flyhalf," said Fleck.
"In the first half (against the Rebels) I felt that he was a little bit erratic but showed some good signs, and then as the game went on he really gained in confidence and kept it simple and I thought he was outstanding in that second half.
"He kept us on the front foot and he understood what we wanted as a team. He stuck to the game-plan and he certainly is getting better and better."
The Stormers can secure a home quarter-final if they beat the Western Force in Perth this weekend.