South Africa is blessed with some wonderful centres at the moment, and the lads in the Stormers squad are no exception. Springbok Captain Jean de Villiers again wears the Captains band for the Stormers, even though Schalk Burger is expected back from a long injury lay-off a couple of weeks into the season.
Coach Allister Coetzee’s appointment of Jean de Villiers is a very good move, firstly rewarding De Villiers for an outstanding leadership role throughout the previous season, and secondly, because like me, I think Coetzee isn’t certain of Schalk Burger getting his position back on a permanent basis, if at all.
Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh had a very good season together, and will remain the incumbents for 2013. Marcel Brache has proven himself to be an excellent cover, and although JP du Plessis didn’t have the best of seasons, he has now had the privilege of working with the Stormers for a season, and I expect him to make the step up this time around.
There are no new faces in this section of the backs.
Marcel Girard (Marcel) Brache
WEIGHT 88 Kg
BIRTH DATE 15 October 1987 – Age 25
DHL Western Province – 2010
Although Marcel only played for 46 minutes of the Stormers 2012 campaign, he started in 10 of the Currie Cup matches for the Western Province side. He played some outstanding and at times inspiring rugby scoring 3 tries in the process. He has shown his ability to play at 12 or 13, and was named the vice captain of the WP side.
2 Years ago Brache was playing social club rugby for the Ikey Tornado’s, now he is in the Stormers squad. Good feet, and good acceleration means he can play centre, fullback or wing, allthough his speed or lack thereof, means he probably won’t be utilised on the wing. He first played for WP in 2010, but officially signed up for them in 2011.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see the USA Eagles making a play for Marcel soon – it is up to us to make sure they don’t!
Juan Leon (Juan) de Jongh
HEIGHT 177 cm
WEIGHT 87 Kg
BIRTH DATE 15 March 1988 – Age 24
DHL Stormers Vodacom Super Rugby – 2010
Juan showed his class through the 2012 season, where he made the outside centre his own after the exodus of Jaque Fourie to Japan and with Jean de Villiers’ move to his inside. A player with precocious talent, Juan can light up the midfield with his turn of speed, quick hands and side-step – his superb try against the Sharks at the end of the season is testament to that.
Almost unwanted by Heyneke Meyer it seemed, after only 9 minutes of play in The Rugby Championship, he eventually played the full matches against Scotland and England on the End Of Year Tour. Heyneke Meyer has often said that size is important, but when given the chance Juan de Jongh has proven otherwise.
A very dynamic and strong centre and agile on his feet, he can carve up any defensive line. This season will see him again pair up with Jean de Villiers for the starting partnership in the centre.
Jean de Villiers
HEIGHT 190 cm
WEIGHT 103 Kg
BIRTH DATE 24 February 1981 – Age 32
DHL Stormers Vodacom Super Rugby – 2005
With a total of 82 Super Rugby games and 84 international caps under his belt, one doesn’t have to look any further for experience. Jean de Villiers, now in the twilight of his career, has been a marvellous servant, and lately Captain, for the Stormers as well as an outstanding player both on attack and defence.
Jean made the move to inside centre in 2012 to make way for Juan de Jongh, and although this isn’t his natural spot, played some inspiring rugby from inside centre – perhaps his only fault was hanging onto the ball too long. It did take a while to find some form and a very long and arduous season mean’t that he was very fatigued by the end of 2012.
Expect him to be well-rested, fully fit, and back to top form for the 2013 season and to lead his troops from the front. As he is quoted as saying: ”I believe the one thing that is non-negotiable for a captain is that he makes the right plays and makes the right decisions under pressure. That’s how I would like to define myself.”
Juan-Pierre (JP) du Plessis
HEIGHT 185 cm
WEIGHT 92 Kg
BIRTH DATE 29 April 1991 – Age 20
Melbourne Rebels – 2010
With a side-stepping ability akin to his namesake Carel du Plesssis, JP should be a centre for the future. Strong and with a very good hand-off, good vision and very good defence, potentially he has just what is required to make the step up. He showed this with aplomb in his matches against the likes of the Bulls, where he handed off JJ Engelbrecht with ease. In this same match, where he played alongside Brache, they both showed an extra-ordinary amount of flare and talent as they moved the ball around to help the Western Province side to a 42-6 win over the old foe.
A very strong runner with an excellent stepping ability, JP grew up in SA before heading to Australia to play league for the Sydney Roosters. He signed for the Melbourne Rebels in 2011, but saw no game time. From there he was released and signed with the Stormers.
Although he received no game time for the Stormers last year, he is bound to make a showing in 2013, where he can don either centre jersey.