Du Preez won the last of his four Springbok caps in 2018 and had to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on a place in South Africa’s 2019 World Cup winning squad because of injury. Having agreed to head to Sale with twin brother Jean-Luc along with elder sibling Rob – all three brothers are Springbok internationals – Dan has become a crucial member of the English club’s pack.
His Premiership statistics this season show 162 carries, 137 tackles, 39 line out wins, seven line out steals. 18 offloads and 46 defenders beaten which all adds up to the kind of package World Cup winner de Klerk believes makes the 6ft 4ins, 17st 7lbs, No8 odds-on for an international recall.
Scrum half de Klerk was in the test wilderness when he arrived at Sale in 2017, but his form in the Premiership earned an international return under Rassie Erasmus and he is predicting similar success for du Preez. De Klerk said: “Dan is playing amazing and it hasn’t just come all of a sudden. He had a massive year last year and was very unlucky to drop out injured before the World Cup.
“Duane Vermuelan is still in the picture but as his stats show, Dan is playing phenomenal rugby. He has so much going for him and there really isn’t a weak point and the du Preez boys bring it every weekend. Dan is definitely being looked at and if you perform the coaches will look at you. It’s not a like a few years ago when they would just focus on South African based players. Now, if you do well at your club you are going to get a chance and that is the main motivation.”
The person du Preez needs to really impress is Dublin based Felix Jones, one of the Springbok assistant coaches, who has been given the key role of keeping contact with the large number of South African players operating in Europe, including the eight players at Sale.
The role given to Jones by the South African Rugby Union is designed to “improve communication and alignment” and is a key one according to de Klerk who explained: “It’s great that Felix is based in Dublin and will service all the guys in the UK and Europe and he can give us background on what we want to do with the Springboks and what the coaches expect from us in our positions. It is nice to know there is someone here to look after us.
“We have been lacking this kind of thing in the last few years because we would rock up to the Springbok camp before a test match and the guys in South Africa would have done their alignment camps and we were playing catch-up.”
Jones was defence consultant during the World Cup winning campaign in Japan and with Rassie Erasmus now South Africa’s director of rugby, Jacques Nienaber has the title of head coach with his first game in charge – coronavirus permitting – coming against Scotland on July 4.
De Klerk is now fully fit after a nine weeks out following a knee ligament injury that turned out to be a grade three tear which he sustained in December. The enforced break allowed de Klerk to repair his body and overcome various “niggles” that he had been carrying. He added: “I have been very lucky with injury and hadn’t missed a game for six years. Coming back from the World Cup and playing it felt like I was getting a niggle every week, and so being injured allowed me to work on so many different things – not just my knee.
“I have never had that kind of time to work on small things and I now feel ready to go again. It has been a blessing in disguise and if you get an injury or there is a hurdle in the way then it is there for a reason.”
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