Petrus du Plessis has gone from playing Championship rugby for Nottingham to winning the AVIVA Premiership title with Saracens in a relatively short amount of time. Joining Saracens in March 2009, the South African born Tighthead prop is living the dream!
A qualified physiotherapist, he is currently making his way back after sustaining a frightening injury earlier this season and I have been lucky enough to talk to Petrus about all things rugby.
Name: Petrus du Plessis
Position: Tighthead prop
My normal nick name is “Parra” which I had as a child. There was a puppet on South African TV. He was a frog and his name is Petrus. Parra means frog in Afrikaans. So the nickname stuck since then.
At Saracens I was branded the white wolf because of my blonde hair. We have a wolfpack principle in the Saracens camp when it comes to defence. So I was branded white wolf. For Example there are others who are called Brown wolf, baby wolf, fat wolf etc.
Rugby Team: Saracens
National Team: England or South Africa? – Got a British and SA passport. Will play for whoever wants me!
How/Why did you start playing rugby?
My step grandfather was Buurman van Zyl. South African legend who coached the Blue Bulls in the 70’s and 80’s. Rugby was popular in our household family and my older brother Kobus showed me the way from the age of 5.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
There have been several coaches during my career even from my school days that had a big influence. Otherwise some of the world class players who I have played with at Nottingham and Saracens who helped me become better. Cobus Visagie and Alex Sanderson were a big influence in improving my scrummaging which of course is my bread and butter as a tighthead!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Playing at Saracens there has been numerous memories made. In 2009 we beat Leicester at Welford road for the first time in 138 years. We then beat Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens in the 2010 Prem Semi’s. Playing in the prem final 2010 in front of 86 000 people vs Leicester (although we lost). Then last season beating Racing Metro 92 in Paris in the biggest snow blizzard ever. And finally winning the prem in 2011 vs Leicester.
We are also fortunate to travel with the club. We have been to Munich beer festival for a 24hour social event, Miami to relax in the sun and train at the Miami Dolphins training ground, France, Biarritz for preseason, South Africa training at the Cape Town World Cup Soccer Stadium and we are due to play in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Argentina. It’s all great highlights!!
Who is the toughest player you have played against?
There are plenty of tough players out there. Players such as Sebastien Chabal, Morgan Parra and Carlos Spencer. Luckily for me most of the toughest players at present play for Saracens such as Schalk Brits and Jacques Burger!
What is your favourite stadium to play in?
Its got to be Twickenham for the pure passion of the crowd, but equally as good for the fantastic privilege to play there is Wembley!
Premiership & Super Rugby
Not long after joining Saracens, you won the Premiership, how did it feel to win the title?
Having played Leicester the year before and losing was heartbreaking. The 2011 final was nail biting but sweet revenge. We defended our line for 9 minutes into extra time. 42 phases later we got a penalty and won.
It sums up the whole season in that 9 minutes. To defend for our lives and to show sheer discipline is what Saracens is all about. The best feeling in the world. We were so ecstatic even to this day we rave on about it!
How would you rate Saracens current season?
Well winning 31 out of the last 35 games, in the Quarter Finals for the Heineken Cup and second in the league trailing by 3 point on the table? I would say that’s a pretty damn good season for us. But obviously still staying humble is important!!
Which player has impressed you the most during the current Premiership season?
Three players that are standout this season are Mouritz Botha, Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell for breaking into the England squad.
Then Jacques Burger had an immense World Cup carrying Namibia single-handedly!
Would you consider returning to South Africa to play Super Rugby?
I have asked myself that question and really I have played all my rugby in England. I am committed to Saracens for a good while longer. But hey if a SA team one day need an old tighthead I might consider!
What is the worst injury you sustained?
Well this year I sustained my worst injury. First game of the season vs. Wasps a scrum collapsed awkwardly and my neck folded in underneath my body. I had instant paralysis of my right arm and it took 3-4 months to return to full strength. That unfortunately is one of the dangers of playing prop. Otherwise I have been pretty lucky with injuries. It is now important to keep my neck as strong as possible for the rest of my career!
You were born in South Africa but qualify for England selection, who would you choose to play for if you were picked for both teams?
Which ever Country comes in with an offer first (ha ha). There are plenty of good props in both countries and it would be a huge honour to represent either. Lets just consider myself a dual national!
Did you enjoy the Rugby World Cup?
The RWC was great to watch. Good physical games was played in good spirit! Some impressive rugby was played from developing rugby countries such as Georgia, Romania, USA, Canada and Namibia. NZ thoroughly deserved the overall victory. South Africa was little unlucky not to go further but on the day its anybody’s game.
How has social media changed the way you interact with your fans?
Facebook was always there for friends, however Twitter is the new social media source for fans to follow their favourite players. It is an ongoing aspect of the Saracens boys to have banter on twitter and also who can get certain mile stones in followers. There is also an award for worst tweets during our court sessions at Saracens, for which I won first prize already! A follow is still welcome! (HA HA)
Do you still work as a physiotherapist or are you 100% focused on rugby at the moment?
I am still an active physiotherapist in my spare time. Mostly treating friends. Saracens is very good in getting players to gain careers outside of rugby. I am now in the process of setting up a national chronic pain service. This is going really well and I will want to recruit 300+ physios. This might take 2 years to set up fully but the gap in the market is huge and I have time whilst playing. I have great backing from other companies as well as Saracens. Very excited about it and the website will go live in a month or so. Just watch this space.
What advice would you give to kids who dream of playing professional rugby?
Firstly it is in your grasp! I remember when I was only a physio student working full time hours, playing for an amateur side. When I eventually committed to rugby I managed to work my way up to play for the best team in England. It takes pure grit, extra hard work and determination. But again it can be done!
Any last words?
Thanks Irene and Pink Rugby.