The performances of the Du Preez brothers provided a much-needed bright light on the South African rugby landscape this past weekend, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Du Preez twins, Daniel and Jean-Luc, were simply colossal for the Sharks in their victory over the Kings, while their older brother Robert provided Stormers fans with plenty to smile about.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that South African rugby was desperately in need of a good-news story, and suggested it would come down to a new generation of players to provide that positivity as on-field matters finally took centre stage again.
In Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, the brothers did just that. The Du Preez trio have Springbok rugby in their blood, with father Robert – now an assistant coach at the Sharks – having been widely regarded as one of the most skilful scrumhalves to play for the Boks and Bulls.
However, there is every indication that Robert Jnr, Jean-Luc and Daniel will blaze their own trail in SA rugby. Throughout their junior rugby days, the brothers were recognised as very special talents, emerging as clear schoolboy standouts.
All three have featured for the Junior Springboks, but have now begun the transition to senior rugby, and it’s a seriously exciting prospect.
As ever, it’s important to temper expectations, and to afford the brothers time to hone their skills throughout this season without undue pressure being placed on their young shoulders.
Lest we forget, Robert – as the older sibling – is just 22, while the twins are 20. But at a time when there has been very little to cheer about in SA rugby, why not indulge in celebrating the emergence of some very exciting raw talent.
Jean-Luc, playing at blindside flank in his Super Rugby debut on Saturday, produced a dynamic and abrasive performance that deservedly earned him the Man of the Match award.
For the last few seasons, injury permitting, Springbok stalwart Willem Alberts is the man Sharks supporters have become accustomed to wearing the No 7 jersey.
Yet Jean-Luc stepped into the role with aplomb, playing with the energy and athleticism that would have made opponents sit up and take notice. Similarly, at No 8, Daniel was physical and fiery, and added another edge to the Sharks’ loose trio.
Not only are the twins big and abrasive, but they are mobile, industrious loose forwards who also boast impressive offloading skills. It’s not too far-fetched to suggest they could bring a completely different dymanic to the Sharks’ forward play this season.
Consider for a moment that the Sharks will still be able to call on the services of fellow loose forwards Jacques Potgieter and Keegan Daniel later this season, and there is no doubt the Durban-based side boasts the best back-row depth of the South African franchises.
And while the Du Preez twins laid down a marker in the Sharks’ Super Rugby opener, later in the day it was the turn of Robert to do just the same for the Stormers.
During the pre-season build-up to Super Rugby, one of the pertinent questions hovering over Newlands was whether the Stormers had the necessary personnel to fulfil that all-important flyhalf position.
For those who recall last year’s Currie Cup final, Robert endured a nightmare performance at Ellis Park. The young No 10 produced an error-strewn display where very little went his way, and naturally some questioned whether he had frozen on the big stage.
In light of that, the manner in which he maturely responded in Saturday’s high-profile derby against the Bulls speaks volumes for the temperament of the 22-year-old.
Not only was he accurate in front of poles, but his all-round play was without reproach, while he provided plenty of glimpses of the playmaking potential that will be key to the Stormers’ cause this season.
Having watched his sons perform over the weekend, Robert Snr must have been just about the proudest father in South Africa. But as rugby followers, we can share in the moment. After all, the performances from the brothers provided just the tonic needed at the start of a new season.
Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix