Du Preez twins’ big ambitions

Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez talk to MARIETTE ADAMS about playing together, brother Robert’s move to Western Province and the role their Springbok father has played in their careers.

How did you guys find the transition from schools rugby, where you dominated for Kearsney, to professional rugby?
It was quite difficult. Everyone plays flamboyantly at age-group level; the contact is harder at professional level. I battled with the physicality in training and during matches at first, but once I settled down my game started to pick up. It’s about having the right mentality.
Daniel: It was tough, but more so for me. I struggled to adjust to the pace of the game. It helped having [older brother] Robert there to guide us.

Were you disappointed Robert didn’t get a contract extension at the Sharks?
Not disappointed, just sad. Now I’m happy, because he is doing well at Western Province. My dad [former Springbok No 9 Robert du Preez Snr] wanted the three of us to stay together. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, but Robert ultimately did what was best for him and I’m just so glad he’s doing well.
Daniel: I had this picture in my mind of us playing Super Rugby together. Maybe it won’t happen in the near future, but it’s still a possibility. For now, I’m chuffed he’s enjoying his rugby again.

You’ve both signed contract extensions with the Sharks. What are your goals for the next couple of seasons?
The first order of business is to help the Sharks win the Currie Cup. It remains South Africa’s premier competition and I’d love to get a winner’s medal. Next, I’d like to become a regular in the Super Rugby team. The transition won’t be easy, but I believe in my capabilities and know I can succeed at that level.
Daniel: I'd like to play in the Currie Cup Premier Division this year and if all goes well, get a few Super Rugby caps under my belt next year.

Have you always wanted to play for the Sharks?
 Yes. Growing up in Durban, we’ve always been staunch Sharks supporters and never dreamed of turning out for another province.
Daniel: Dad also represented the Sharks, so as kids we would wear our replica Sharks jerseys and run around the house as if it was Kings Park.

What impact has your dad had on your playing careers?
Look, the guy has been our coach since we were five. He’s always been very strict with us, but we were too young to understand that he was talking from experience. I can’t remember him playing. When we practised he was nothing else but our coach and he drilled us hard. He taught me everything I know about rugby.
Daniel: Besides all the technical stuff, he helps to keep us focused and level-headed, with our feet firmly on the ground. I cop a lot of criticism from him, but take it on the chin because I know he means well and only wants the best for us.

What’s the best advice you’ve received from him?
Work hard and reap the benefits.
Daniel: To believe I’m the best.

Was it difficult playing for a struggling Vodacom Cup team and a Junior Boks team that lost in the semi-finals of the World Rugby U20 Championship?
It does affect your self-confidence – you start questioning your abilities – but that’s when you have to show mental toughness. You have to accept that the team as a whole is not doing so well, not you alone. I saw it as part of a learning curve.
Daniel: It’s never nice to play in a losing team, but it didn’t affect my self-confidence. Coaches are skill-specific and perhaps that’s where the problem lies.

Did the Junior Boks come up short against England because the   team was dominated up front and didn’t have a Plan B?
They were the better side on the day, but those two yellow cards in the first 30 minutes of the game were harsh and cost us. They got in front in those 20 minutes and it was hard to come back. It’s not that we didn’t have a Plan B, we were just rattled during that passage of play and England made the most of the opportunity.
Daniel: People fail to understand that we kept pace with England until those yellow cards. From then on, we were on the back foot. It had nothing to do with a lack of a Plan B. Our discipline let us down and as players we have ourselves to blame for exiting the tournament. Personally, I would have liked more game time, but that’s in the past now.

Daniel, you’ve played lock or No 8 in the past but were regarded as a blindside flank at the U20 Championship.
I was told in Grade 11 I was too short to play lock, so I moved to No 8. I was signed by the Sharks as a loose forward and I played flank for the first time in the U19 provincial tournament last year. Eighthman is my preferred position, though.

Jean-Luc, do you see Daniel as a threat now that he plays in the same position as you?
There’ll always be competition, it doesn’t matter what position you play. Daniel is an eighthman, but I’m not bothered about surrendering my spot to him. In fact, I can’t think of a better replacement.

With so many excellent loose forwards in South Africa, would you consider a move abroad?
It’s become common practice for youngsters to head to Asia and Europe, but it’s not something I’d consider now. My dad said, if we wanted to follow in his footsteps and play international rugby, playing outside South Africa is not an option. I’d like to go overseas later in my career, but for now the focus is on becoming a Bok.
Daniel: I’d only think about it much later in my career. I wouldn’t join a club if Jean-Luc or Robert were not also part of the deal. The plan is for the three of us to play together in the same senior side one day.

Which loose forwards do you look up to?
Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.
Daniel: I’ll add Marcell Coetzee to Jean-Luc’s list.

What has been the highlight of your careers so far?
Representing South Africa at two U20 Championships.
Daniel: Sharing this journey with Jean-Luc. We’re so blessed to have played together in every team to date.

Who is the best coach you’ve played under?
I think I speak for both of us when I say Dawie Theron. He picked us for two U20 Championships, but we forged a strong bond with him during his time with the SA Schools team.

What is your twin’s biggest strength on the rugby field?
His attacking play when he carries the ball.
Daniel: His work rate and commitment. It doesn’t matter whether the team has a big lead or is trailing by a big margin, Jean-Luc gives his best.

Describe your twin in five words?
Best friend in the world.
Daniel: My funny, hardworking, loyal mate.

What are your interests and hobbies outside rugby?
With Robert in Cape Town and our parents in Potchefstroom, Dan and I try to meet up with the family as much as we can. We spend most of our spare time with family and friends around a fire, preparing a nice braai. Other than that, it’s always just rugby.
Daniel: I enjoy the outdoors. Whenever there’s a gap, I go swimming, fishing and camping.

Are you guys studying at the moment?
Yes, I’m doing a Bcom marketing course through Unisa.
Daniel: I’m not studying, but am considering doing a business course later in my career.

What is your best childhood memory of yourself and your twin?
We were playing a game for Durban Crusaders, who we joined aged five, and I was on the wing. I scored a couple of tries and when I caught a glimpse of Dan’s face I could see he was sulking. When I crossed the tryline again, I ran all the way to give the ball to him, but my pass was forward and his try was disallowed.
Daniel: Not that story again.


‘The boys never needed a lot of encouragement to play rugby, it was in their blood. One was never more eager than the other and they had the same level of enthusiasm. I was their first coach at Durban Crusaders. Jean-Luc was in the backline then and did all the scoring, so I always had to console and pamper Dan post-match. He wasn’t bothered when other kids scored, only when his brother did. They were always very competitive and still are. My wife and I are indescribably proud of them for excelling in such a competitive and performance-based industry.’

‘It would have been a unique situation to have a set of twins and an older brother in one team. I was very sad when things didn’t work out for Rob at the Sharks. With him in Durban, I was more at ease knowing they were together and looking after each other. I’m still hoping for a professional reunion between the three.’

– This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of SA Rugby magazine


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