Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has hand-picked Petrus du Plessis to turn the Australian scrum into a weapon.
Two months after being appointed as the Wallabies’ scrum coach, Du Plessis finally met up with the Wallabies squad this past weekend after being released from mandatory quarantine.
Up until then, the former Saracens and Glasgow prop, who helped mentor the likes of England front-row duo Mako Vunipola and Jamie George, had been forced to coach from behind his computer.
‘Quarantined for two weeks and then I got released on the morning of the game,’ Du Plessis told reporters.
‘It was a big day at the office. My first day. But I’ve been obviously working a lot with the front rowers remotely.
‘I’m probably the first international coach to coach via Zoom but I’ve enjoyed that and the boys have taken that really well. When I got here it was a quick handshake and off we went, get ready for the game.’
Du Plessis might not have played international rugby, but anyone who knows anything about the English Premiership knows that the South African prop, who is a qualified physiotherapist, was one of the outstanding front rowers of the past decade.
After hanging up his boots last season, Du Plessis’ transition into coaching was seamless. In his final season at Glasgow, he was a player-coach under now Wallabies coach Rennie.
‘I played eight years at Saracens, two at London Irish and two at Glasgow Warriors with Dave Rennie. In that time, I’ve learned the dark arts the hard way. And the best possible way. I’ve worked with some unbelievable players and mentored and coached quite a few unbelievable players. Guys you’d see in the England and South Africa set-up.
‘My physio background plays a massive role. Physiotherapy is basically movement analysis. That helps me massively. I’m an expert in neck strengthening. That helps massively in the scrum. Core strengthening. If you put all that together, with the fact I’ve only recently played, so I know all the scrum rules inside out. I’ve stuck my head in those dark places. If you put all that together, that’s where the conversation led with Dave. He said to me in his own words, I relate well to all ages and props and front rows. He liked that and he liked the way I present and get the message across.
‘We had an honest discussion and I said to him, “Look, if the chance occurred, I would follow you to Australia.” That’s what happened.
‘The Wallabies scrum has always been there or thereabouts. They didn’t have a bad World Cup campaign. But I suppose, some people might say the scrum was just a restart of set piece,’ he said.
‘The thing we want to change is, we want to make the scrum a weapon, so we can decide whether we attack or not and we can manipulate the opposition. That’s the main thing, for me.
‘The talent we’ve got at the minute is good enough to possibly have one of the best scrums in the world, I believe. Looking at what talent we have, I’m pretty sure we’ve made good strides.
‘The first game – you’re always going to have a bit of ref interpretation with regard to free kicks. The second Bledisloe we came away with the rub of the green and then we had 100% ball in the last two games.’
Photo: Stu Walmsley/Rugby Australia