Grey College 1st XV head coach Wessel du Plessis is busy working with schoolboys who could be South African rugby’s next generation, writes JURGEN SMITH.
Rassie Erasmus outsmarted the world, but just as he and his coaching team will be replaced, so will our heroes who left the world in awe during the World Cup. Nobody knows who will step up to take over the reins of the current perfect rugby prodigy, but school rugby coaches are working with them right now.
Siya Kolisi, our Springbok captain, is the pride of Grey High which produced 14 of South Africa’s best. This figure is being overshadowed by its counterpart, Grey College, who produced an immaculate 45 Springboks over the years.
Grey College has an impressive record, which is nearly as impressive as Paul Roos Gimnasium’s 49 Bok production line. Statistical data indicate that Wessel du Plessis as the head coach at Grey College is moulding some of them right now.
Du Plessis, born in Bloemfontein, fell into coaching after being plagued by injuries. In his rugby playing career, Du Plessis represented the Cheetahs at under 20 level and sevens. He played in Australia as well as in England. His love for the game only grew stronger as his impressive coaching career progressed.
Like any good school coach, Wessel fills the shoes of more influential roles than just coaching. What drives him isn’t monetary, but the ability to work with young men and by having an ‘influence in their lives becoming professional rugby players, leaders, role models, good husbands and dads or generally good people.’ He hopes that his young men will one-day influence society for the better.
‘I started coaching rugby at grassroot level with 5 to 7-year-olds and primary school level in Bloemfontein in 2004 while I was still playing,’ Du Plessis says. ‘As a player there isn’t really anything better than playing the game of rugby but after injuries I think coaching chose me and the more I became involved the more it grew on me. Previous coaches at Grey College taught me a lot and I was lucky enough to have worked with Franco Smith the past few years.
‘I love working with young men and have an influence on their future knowing that they will become professional rugby players, good people, leaders, rolemodels, good husbands and dads in their everyday life. To know that they will be able to influence society for the better.
‘I think South African schoolboy rugby is healthy and strong but it is sometimes very competitive which puts a lot of pressure on schoolboys. Maybe we need to ensure that the strength of the competitions being played is more evenly matched.
‘Because of the rugby laws that change, style of play will also change and because it is so competitive, coaches will always try new concepts, but the basics of the game will stay the same.
‘I am not set on a certain destination but always open to learn and contribute were I am involved in,’ Du Plessis says on his future. ‘My goals are always to assist players to make a difference in their lives not just on the field but in their normal lives.’
Du Plessis had several offers from unions in South Africa, but his loyalty remained with Grey College which is a traditional powerhouse of SA Schools rugby. His pride inspires him to keep it that way. His Christian principles and his coaching philosophy develop boys to be better players and human beings. His humility is an example of the kind of extraordinary leader he is. His 88.17 winning percentage is testament to that. This makes him currently one of the best upcoming young coaches in South African rugby.
Photo: Mlungisi Louw