Du Preez twins to unite for Boks?

 Dan du Preez (Gallo)
Dan du Preez (Gallo)

Cape Town – His own timely evidence of best form, coupled with the current injury mini-crisis in the No 8 position.

Those factors might just combine to earn Dan du Preez a speedier call-up to the Springbok squad than some might have imagined a few weeks ago.

If that occurs, he would potentially also find himself operating at Test level alongside his already four-cap twin brother and blind-side flank Jean-Luc.

The pair, along with similarly industrious captain and No 6 flanker Philip van der Walt, played major roles in the Sharks’ near-upset of the hugely more fancied Lions in a Super Rugby quarter-final at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

It was so close that few could have begrudged the men from Durban an unexpected ticket to the semis – although they would have had to fly to Wellington for it, a la their notably ill-fated 2016 knockout experience – had they pulled it off.

One of the most eye-opening aspects was the way that loose trio outfoxed and certainly outmuscled for the most part Lions counterparts Jaco Kriel, Kwagga Smith and Ruan Ackermann on the day.

The Lions may even have to consider reworking their loosie combination for the stiff challenge of the Hurricanes on Saturday; Ackermann is traditionally better suited to No 7 than the eighth-man chore, even if he is standing in uncomplainingly in the latter role for absent regular skipper Warren Whiteley.

On the plus side, the free-running ‘Canes, with someone like Ardie Savea such an explosive, mobile factor as their open-sider, may well present a high-tempo style of rugby in the semi that brings the likes of speedsters Kriel and Smith right back into their element as well.

But Springbok coach Allister Coetzee would have found it impossible not to be seduced in some way by the rugged, intense performance of Dan du Preez in the quarter-final.

The strapping, 112kg Du Preez, who will turn 22 on August 5, might have been deemed some way down the pecking order for the Bok berth earlier in the season, when the Boks had Whiteley inspiring them to the series clean sweep over France and there was also some thought that “hardebaard” Duane Vermeulen might be called to arms from his Toulon base for the Rugby Championship.

But now Vermeulen has been ruled out of the entire, looming 2017 competition after groin surgery, and Whiteley is in a race against time to be ready himself in time for the double-round openers against Argentina from late August.

So the Boks are low on immediate availability of specialists at No 8, leaving the door open to one or two rookies to sneak into the mix at the start of the tournament.

If Coetzee decides to go a more “athletic” route in plugging the likely hole for the time being, then the tearaway SA ‘A’ squad pair of Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Stormers) and Andisa Ntsila (Kings) will be strongly in the running.

But, mindful of the fact that the most iconic No 8 in the competition, the All Blacks’ skipper Kieran Read, is no shrinking violet in the physical stakes to go with his trumpeted skills in other areas, right now the young Du Preez shapes as a feasible counter to him in that regard.

In fact, a starting loose trio of Siya Kolisi and both Du Preez brothers starting the first clash with the Pumas at Port Elizabeth on August 19 seems not completely out of the question, even if it might have a heavier emphasis as a unit on power and workhorse factor than any special pace and pizzazz.

If Dan does earn a squad call-up, he would also be a major step closer to becoming, with Jean-Luc, the 33rd set of two brothers to play for South Africa (there have also been three sets of three brothers).

Coincidentally, the last pair of siblings to both earn Bok honours were also twins: Odwa (2008-11) and Akona Ndungane (2006-07), although they never played for the green-and-gold cause at the same time.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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