The huge physical presence of blonde South Africa Under-20 flanker Jacques du Plessis has become a familiar sight at the IRB Junior World Championship in France after two standout performances for the Junior Springboks in the No 7 jersey.
Du Plessis, who hails from Pongola, is an imposing 2.01 meters tall and weighs in at 119kg. He is an extremely mobile player despite his huge frame and is equally at home as flank, number eight and lock forward.
He represented the Pumas as No 8 at the Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week and in 2011 played for the SA Schools team as a lock and utility forward. But it is his incredible high work rate from the side of the scrum which has made him one of the best players of the tournament so far.
Du Plessis could so easily have been an athletics star for South Africa. While in Grade 11, he won a gold medal in the discus event at the World Youth Championships in Singapore and luckily for the Junior Boks, he decided to pursue a career as a rugby player.
“I loved athletics and participated in both sports codes (including rugby) while at school. Athletics helped me a lot with my fitness and agility but rugby was always my first love,” explains Du Plessis.
SA Under-20 coach, Dawie Theron, lauded the player’s ability to cross the advantage line as a ball carrier and to get around the field to make vital tackles for his team.
“He has the potential to develop into a future star for South Africa. Jacques has a special presence on the field and he has many great attributes, which makes him such a good player. He is very effective when going forward and is extremely athletic for a player man of his size. Apart from his athletic ability, he also has a high work rate and such good feel for the game,” added Theron.
Du Plessis first caught the attention while playing in the schoolboy colours of the Pumas at the nursery of South African rugby, the Coca-Cola Craven Weeks, where so many current Springboks and Junior Springboks first made their mark on the rugby field.
“We spotted him while playing for the Pumas at the Coca-Cola Craven Weeks and subsequently selected him for the SA Schools team. I think the past season at the Vodacom Blue Bulls has really improved his game and his lineout play is nowadays much better. I am very satisfied with his performances for the SA Under-20’s so far at the JWC in France,” said Theron.
Du Plessis is expected to play another major role in South Africa’s forward onslaught when the Junior Boks play hosts France on Thursday in their last remaining Pool A match. South Africa is currently top of their pool standings with nine points after wins over the United States and England.
The JWC runs from 5 to 23 June across three venues in France.