World's tallest professional rugby player aiming to be big problem for Bath
JP du Preez is at almost 7ft the world’s tallest professional rugby player and is aiming to use his incredible height to cement Sale’s position in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs by becoming a line out nightmare for one of his former teammates at Bath tonight.
Throwing into the Bath line out will be Jacques du Toit, making his first start for the West Country side, who used to aim for the long arms of du Preez when they played together for the Cheetahs in South Africa before they both joined the drain of rugby talent to Europe. The Cheetahs have given Leicester the ball carrying power of Jasper Wiese, brother of Sale lock Cobus, while prop Luan de Bruin is also at the Tigers and outside half Tian Schoeman is with Bath.
Du Preez (6 foot 10.75 inches) is relishing the chance to face du Toit and told RugbyPass: “Jacques and I were in the same Cheetahs team in Bloemfontein and played Currie Cup and Pro 14 together and I know him very well. We built a really good relationship but now I am in the opposition line out. When we do have some time off I go and visit some of the Cheetahs guys like Jasper and Luan who are at Leicester now with Hanro Liebenberg (former Blue Bulls).
“It is always nice to catch up and be able to speak our own language ( Afrikaans) and you do miss home. I came over with my wonderful wife (Iona) and if you did it alone then it would be tough during the pandemic. The players and coaches at Sale have made it much easier and Jono Ross ( Sale captain) was the first guy to communicate with me and everyone made me really welcome. I am really enjoying it.”
World Cup winner Lood de Jager, currently recovering from a serious leg injury, has spoken about the unusual situation that du Preez has created with the 6ft 9ins Springbok lock no longer the tallest player in the Sale changing room. “Lood is looking up because of my height and I am looking up to him because he is a Springbok – it is nice combination. In my career I haven’t had to look up at another player, but someone who was almost eye to eye with me was Will Skelton when we played La Rochelle in the Heineken Cup. He is a very, very big lad, but also very nice.
“The rugby here is very strategic and we look to where we can target a team’s weakness. Contact wise it is harder and in the lineouts it is always about speed off the ground and reach. The line out is not all about height, it is also about your lifters getting you in the right place to win the ball. Our hookers analyse us individually and so know where the target is if I am playing or one of the other jumpers and they work on this every day.
“I do a lot of box jumps in the gym, cardio work on the bike and running and I like to carry the ball into contact. I really enjoy that part of the game but I am very long and so opponents try and get my ankles and so I concentrate on driving my legs. That is one of my work ons in training.”
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Third-placed Sale have recruited heavily from South Africa with du Preez their 11th import from that rugby-mad country although he is not related to the club’s three other du Preez’s – brothers Rob, Jean-Luc and Dan. While height is a family tradition in the du Preez household – his grandfather was 7ft – JP is the first member of the clan to make a major impact in rugby. “ My grandfather Dup was spot on 7ft but he didn’t play rugby: “ said du Preez who arrived in Manchester on a two-year deal. “ I am almost 7ft and at 26-years-old I think I have stopped growing.
“It runs in the family and my mother and father are also very tall but my wife is, I think, about 170cm (5ft 6ins).”
Du Preez hopes helping third placed Sale bid for the Premiership title will impress the Springbok selectors but accepts that South Africa have a number of world-class locks to choose from headed by teammate de Jager. “It motivates me a lot and if I can get that opportunity it would be great but if it doesn’t happen then I am willing to work harder. I don’t know why we produce so many big locks – maybe it is something in the blood.”
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