Stormer Dan Du Plessis forges own path rising from rugby’s dynasty
Stormers centre Dan du Plessis comes from South African rugby royalty‚ but he wants to carve his own path after resurrecting his career this season.
Du Plessis is the son of former Bok centre Michael‚ nephew of the ‘Prince of Wings’ Carel and Bok centre Willie and cousin to Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis.
His father was an exceptional player but also mercurial. Dan seems to be more pragmatic in his approach to the game.
“Sometimes he [Michael] talks a bit too much about his own career and I tend to get upset with him and tell him to keep quiet after a while‚” Du Plessis said with a chuckle.
“He has obviously had a massive impact on my career. He gives me a lot of feedback‚ which is mostly positive. He doesn’t try to put any negativity on me. I have learned a lot from him.
“But I am going on my own path and not following in his footsteps. I am just trying to make my own path and own career.”
When it comes to genetics and exposure to the game he has been fortunate. But injuries make no allowances for pedigree and talent and Du Plessis‚ at the age of 23‚ is trying to restart a career derailed by a serious shoulder injury.
He made his debut for the Stormers in latter stages of 2016 and carried that potential into the 2017 season. Six games in‚ he was having a blinder against the Crusaders‚ and then he did his shoulder. He didn’t see a field for another year.
“This is the first full preseason that I have managed to get through in the past four or five years‚” Du Plessis said from New Zealand‚ where the Stormers are preparing for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Hurricanes.
“That has benefitted me a lot so far. I can feel the difference it has made to my body and fitness.
“With my struggles with injury‚ to get through a full preseason and get that momentum going into the beginning of Super Rugby has helped a lot.
“I haven’t got a lot of game time due to injuries over the past two seasons‚ so I am enjoying being out there and making the most of it.
“My body feels in the best shape‚ especially after all the injuries I have been through. It is in the best shape it has been in the past two years. In a way‚ I guess you can say it feels like a fresh start.
“At the moment I am not concentrating on the past – I have got over that and am looking forward to what I can do this season.”
The Stormers are on a three-match winning streak after a heavy loss to the Bulls in round one and are determined to keep the momentum going.
But they have not won in New Zealand since 2013 and are on a 10-match losing streak. There are no illusions about how difficult it will be to turn it around.
“In terms of direct opposition‚ this is my toughest challenge‚” Du Plessis said. “The Bulls were also a tough challenge for us‚ they have a very strong team and have been doing very well thus far.
“We will be up against a number of All Blacks and world-class players like Beauden Barrett and [Ngani] Laumape.
“A lot of their backline players have All Blacks experience.
"We will embrace that as players. We also have a lot of youngsters‚ who will look to use that opportunity against world-class players.”