Stormers back Jean-Luc for Super Rugby impact

    2018-04-24 09:27

    Cape Town - When the Stormers began their 2018 Super Rugby campaign, flyhalf was an area of concern.

    They had lost Robert du Preez to the Sharks and hadn't replaced him while Jean-Luc du Plessis was battling a groin injury that would turn into a hip injury and keep him out for the first half of the season. 

    While Dillyn Leyds has always been considered an option at flyhalf for coach Robbie Fleck, that responsibility fell on 19-year-old Damian Willemse at the start of the campaign. 

    The Stormers may find themselves bottom of the South African Conference with just three wins from nine, but Willemse has undoubtedly been one of their success stories of 2018. 

    An exciting player with ball in hand, Willemse's side-stepping ability has been a standout while he has also displayed a largely accomplished kicking game. His distribution is assured for such a young playmaker, and Willemse has already played himself into the Springbok conversation ahead of the June International window. 

    As exciting as Willemse has been, though, the Stormers could do with another quality option at No 10 and they hope that they will soon be able to turn to Du Plessis. 

    Now 23, Du Plessis played his first competitive match in over a year when he guided Western Province to a 59-12 win over the EP Elephants in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. 

    Du Plessis, who scored two tries on the day, was substituted with 5 minutes remaining in the match but Stormers management confirmed that he got through unscathed and without injury. 

    The plan now will be for him to get as many minutes as possible under the belt, but listening to assistant coach Paul Treu talk on Monday, Du Plessis will have a big role to play in the Stormers' late charge for a Super Rugby playoff place. 

    "We were pleased with his performance. He hasn't played in a while, but for him to come from being away from the game for so many months and put in a performance like that, you can see that his experience is definitely going to be needed for us going forward," Treu said.

    "You can see his experience in how he managed the game. Ultimately, that is what we want from a world class No 10.

    "He is really communicating and directing his team, making the right calls in the right areas of the field."

    Treu acknowledged that while the Stormers have been largely impressed with Willemse this season, there remained certain aspects of his game that would improve with time.

    "With Damian, I think he is improving and he's getting there. He just needs to play more; the more he plays, the better he is going to get," said Treu.

    "It is something that our coaches and Paul Feeney have been working on ... his communication and game management. We can't fast-track experience ... it has to come over time."

    The Stormers now face a must-win assignment on Friday when they host the Rebels at Newlands. Kick-off is at 15:05.

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