Once a small-town boy from the Free State, Du Plessis has caught the attention of national and international scouts with some excellent performances for school, province and country this season.
During Craven Week, he was approached by the Sydney Roosters, an Australian rugby league team, who made him a lucrative offer. He signed a three-year contract, with a one-month escape clause, and will travel to Sydney in December.
Du Plessis grew up on a farm and went to Reitz High, where he started his schoolboy career at flank. His natural talent had already caught the attention of the provincial selectors as he captained an U15 Free State Barbarians side.
However, the 18-year-old realised if he wanted to pursue a professional career in rugby, he would have to move to a more recognised school.
‘If I had stayed at Reitz, I would have only been able to make the Griffons squad at provincial level,’ he said. ‘One day, I travelled with my father to Paul Roos. We were both impressed with the structures and high standards they had and he suggested I continue my schooling there from 2007.’
Du Plessis’ decision proved to be a good one. At Paul Roos, he was utilised on the wing and he went on to make the U16 Western Province elite squad. The following season he made his debut for Paul Roos’s 1st XV.
‘What makes him so special is that he’s a very strong runner and has excellent stepping ability,’ says Paul Roos 1st XV coach Stephan Jordaan. ‘He can sometimes bump off a lot of tackles, but he usually escapes the defence with his stepping.
‘I remember him scoring some crucial tries. Against SACS last year, he scored a try from the halfway line by beating several defenders.’
This season Du Plessis made the switch to outside centre in order to get more involved with play and because he lacks the speed to play wing. He went on to make the WP Craven Week and SA Schools teams.
While many were shocked by his decision to go to Australia, he says he simply wants to develop his game overseas, and still has Springbok ambitions.
‘Anyone in my position would do the same,’ he said. ‘I’m going over there to play rugby league, which will improve my skills and help me grow as a player. I still want to play in the green and gold, so I’ll come back.’
By Gareth Duncan