PETRUS DU PLESSIS picked up a nasty blow to his nose whilst making his first appearance of the season for Glasgow Warriors’ against Treviso last Saturday, which left him using the back of referee Nigel Owens’ shirt to wipe blood from his face, and sporting the appearance of a prize fighter who had gone one round too many against a superior pugilist.
“You can see what my nose is like – it’s on the other side of my face,” chuckled the South African tight-head at training on Tuesday. “There’s no point in fixing it. Doctors don’t want to touch it until you’ve finished playing, so we’ll see when that is.”
At the ripe old age of 38, you would ordinarily assume that the hooter might be up for corrective surgery fairly soon, but Du Plessis – rugby player, coach, physiotherapist, actor, irrepressible character – is not the sort of individual you make ordinary assumptions about.
— Petrus du Plessis (@PetrusduPlessis) January 6, 2020
‘There is no date in terms of when I’ll finish,” he said. “I’ve just stepped in for one game. That’s probably where I’m at just now. But I do like to train with the boys and keep on going. It’s just a case of keeping myself fit.
“I think I had to ring the fire brigade to come and scoop me out of bed on Sunday morning, but as I said to the boys earlier this week, the chance coming along for me to play shows that anything is possible. So, if the Six Nations is on and we lose a couple of players to injury, then I have to be ready to play if I’m asked again.”
It is unlikely to be this weekend against Exeter Chiefs in the Champions Cup because Du Plessis is not a member of the Warriors’ European squad, although he can be parachuted in as emergency injury if Zander Fagerson or Adam Nicol pick up an injury between now and kick-off. D’Arcy Rae [hand] and Siua Halanukonuka [calf] are not available.
Du Plessis has been working principally as a scrum coach for Warriors this season but was named on the bench last weekend as emergency cover at tight-head on the assumption that all being well he might get a few minutes towards the end.
That was the plan. However, with the Warriors’ scrum in all sorts of trouble – and that threatening to undermine the great stuff being produced out the back – head coach Dave Rennie turned to Du Plessis after just five minutes of the second half, and his arrival on the pitch was almost certainly the most important contributing factor to the team winning as handsomely as they did in the end.
“It was a shock to the system, put it that way – but I really enjoyed it,” smiled the player, when asked what went through his mind when he was told he was going on with 35 minutes still to play. “It was a case of me being on the bench and providing cover if we needed it. Then we got a yellow-card [against loose-head Aki Seiuli for collapsing] and we thought maybe we should start putting new props on just in case there’s another yellow or it turns into a red.
“Then five minutes after half-time, they thought it was a good time to do it. The first question was: ‘Do you have 35 minutes in you?’ So, I said: ‘Yeah, let’s go’. I knew it was going to be a tough day at the office, but it was good fun and I enjoyed it.
“The first scrum was on our own try line and we knew we just needed to secure the ball. We wanted to get the ref back on our side more than anything. That was the main thing because once you start losing the ref in the scrum , then things can sway the other way.
“Then, in the second scrum, we all felt like: ‘Okay, we’ve got them here. Let’s really have a go’. We went through them and that really changed the ref’s perception in terms of us sorting our problems out.
“In terms of sorting out the scrum, you just have to stand up to it, get on the pitch and get on with it. You can’t preach something [to the players at training during the week] and not do it yourself. Maybe it was good for the guys to actually see me playing in that sense.”
Du Plessis refused to be drawn on whether he expected to be involved this weekend, choosing instead to focus on the massive challenge the whole squad will face on Saturday.
The Chiefs defeated Warriors 34-18 at Sandy Park back in November and currently sit 10 points clear at the top of Pool 2 in the Champions Cup. They are also leading the way in the English Premiership. But Du Plessis insists that Warriors have the firepower – and are beginning to play with the tempo required – to cause the upset they need in order to keep their quarter-final dream alive.
“We converted most of our line-breaks last week into tries,” he reasons. “Some of the youngsters like Bruce Flockhart and Tom Gordon just played unbelievably well – when you look at the tackles, carries, metres they made, line-breaks they made, it was just phenomenal. And the guys who were rested last week are hungry to get out there again.
“The tenacity that Exeter show is always very good. We will need to break through that with our physicality and our speed of ball. We will have to be quite crafty in terms of how we break them down, but we have the players to do it.”
Meanwhile, Grant Stewart has been added to the Warriors’ European squad ahead of Saturday’s match, with Johnny Matthews being de-registered.