DHL Stormers centre Dan du Plessis has spent the last two weeks on the sidelines and can’t wait to get back out there as the Vodacom United Rugby Championship resumes on Friday.
The midfielder has been one of the stand-out players for the DHL Stormers this season and played an influential role in their last two wins in the competition against Scarlets and Dragons, before focus shifted to the Heineken Champions Cup.
Having watched the team for the last two weeks, he is keen to get out there and make a difference in the clash with the Vodacom Bulls.
“It’s never easy being on the sidelines. Especially when you are working week in and week out to get into a starting lineup in the team and that all comes to a halt with injury,” he said.
Du Plessis is expecting a stern test for the DHL Stormers when they square up against the Vodacom Bulls in Friday’s North-South showdown at DHL Stadium.
The DHL Stormers host the Vodacom Bulls in a repeat of last season’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final.
Both teams are on 34 points on the table this season, with the Vodacom Bulls sitting ahead of the DHL Stormers in second place due to a superior win ratio, although the defending champions have a game in hand.
It all sets up for a titanic battle at DHL Stadium on Friday.
“The Vodacom Bulls have looked really good this season, we know how dangerous they can be when they get going. It’s going to be a massive clash this weekend.
“In games like these, there is very little margin for error. Discipline is going to be important. Other important aspects are going to be the scrums and the halfbacks. Whichever combination can dictate the game the best and put their team on the front foot will give them a good chance of success,” said Du Plessis.
Although the DHL Stormers have only ever lost one South African derby in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, Du Plessis warns of the importance of focusing on the here and now.
“We have to take confidence from the fact that we only lost one game against South African rivals last season,” he said. “Then again, we have to remember it is a new season, teams look a bit different, there are new players and they would have done a lot of analysis on us as a team.
“We need to use that confidence, but also not get ahead of ourselves. The local derbies are always closely contested games and really physical,” he said.
The 27-year-old centre spent the latter stages of last season on the sidelines with a concussion, but is taking the positives from his time off the field.
“The team didn’t make it much easier by going on to lift the Vodacom URC trophy,” Du Plessis said with a chuckle. “You do in a way wish that you are on the field in that final and that I got the chance to experience that. I am still really proud to have contributed to the campaign.
“One of the things I learned from my time on the sidelines is that it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. You need to make the best of it, work on different aspects of your game, whatever you can while you’re injured. It also gives you a chance to take a mental break and refresh, so that when you get back you can return as a better player.
The DHL Stormers are still unbeaten at home since the beginning of the year and Du Plessis hopes the faithful will lend their support to the team again on Friday.
“Our record at home over the last year owes a lot to the fans that have come out to the stadium. The team takes a lot of confidence from playing at home because it’s incredible playing in front of a packed DHL Stadium. Hopefully the fans come out this weekend and we put on a good show for them,” he added.