CAPE TOWN – Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has kept faith with under-fire flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, recalling the pivot for tomorrow’s all important Super Rugby clash against the Bulls.
Here is Fleck’s full explanation for sticking with Du Plessis:
1. Was it always the plan to play Du Plessis this week?
Fleck: “Last week we rested him because his body was sore. He was always going to come back for this game. We feel that tactically we like the way he’s played, especially in that first half in that Rebels game, so it certainly was always the case of bringing him back.”
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2. Du Plessis has been coming under public criticism for his performances. Do you think it is based more on fiction than fact?
Fleck: “The way we see the game he has an influential role on the way we want to play. We feel that the combination of himself, Herschel (Jantjies), and (Damian) De Allende was getting stronger as the tour was going on.
I felt in that Rebels game he was tactically very good. Yes, he made some mistakes in the second half, but the way he is controlling the game for us, we (are) pretty happy with the way he is going.
Look, with Jean-Luc we all know that he is good rugby player and has a good rugby brain and we will keep backing him to take the guys forward. Both Josh (Stander) and Gaza (Damian Willemse) have had their chances, whether it was impactful or strategic like last week when Josh was brought into the starting line-up, they have a role to play. But we are going to continue to back Jean-Luc.
For us, especially this weekend, he is going to play an integral role in that regard. I know guys are talking about Gaza (Willemse) going back to flyhalf, but for me he is the No 1 fullback in the country at the moment. He has been outstanding, so why take him out of a position that he is dominating in South African rugby at the moment.
In terms of the kicking game, he is controlling the game excellently at the back there. In my side, he is certainly the best guy under the high ball. For me, he is the No 1 fullback in the country at the moment so we don’t want to mess with that much to be honest. I said on tour the back three is going well and we spoke about Dillyn Leyds two weeks ago is also playing outstanding rugby so you don’t want to mess with that too much.”
3. In terms of what Du Plessis brings, is it that ability to kick into the corners?
Fleck: “The way he interplays between the backs and forwards as well, he also brings a left option into play for us, which we didn’t have last week. I think in the modern game you need a left and right foot option. With SP (Marais) out at the moment, obviously JL is the only one with a left foot so it does play a role in selection.”
The Stormers team to face the Bulls:
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Kobus van Dyk, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Seabelo Senatla.