JP du Plessis may be a new name in the Stormers midfield, but the young centre with rugby league skills in his arsenal has already made an early impression on his coaches.
Du Plessis was one of the stars of Western Province's 2009 Craven Week side, where he was spotted by a scout from Australian rugby league outfit, the Sydney Roosters.
The youngster spent a year with the Roosters before the Melbourne Rebels signed him for their inaugural Super Rugby season last year.
Moving to Sydney to tackle a completely different code, that he'd only ever seen on the internet, proved too difficult, which is why Du Plessis quickly switched back to union.
"JP has been in union his whole life and only spent one year in league, and it was tough for him to be thrown into the Sydney Roosters set-up as an 18-year-old," Stormers backline coach Robbie Fleck told this website.
"He didn't like the game and a lot of union guys can't make the transition to league simply because they just don't like the game, and it's not suited to their style of play.
"A lot of union guys struggle to go across and there aren't many that I know of who have gone and made a successful stint in league.
"Tiaan Strauss went across and was fairly successful, but there aren't many who make it. Likewise there are a huge amount of league guys who try to convert to union who don't make it," said Fleck.
The 20-year-old has made the decision to return to South Africa at the end of last year and Fleck believes he is ready to make his Super Rugby debut.
The skills that the former SA Under-18 starlet picked up while at the Roosters are of particular interest to Fleck, who believes union can learn a lot from their league cousins.
"The one thing JP has brought back is a massive attitude and a professional manner in the way he trains," Fleck explained.
"He's a big boy and what he has learnt in league are good hard running lines and a tough attitude in the wide channel, which is going to be great."
Following the departures of Jaque Fourie, Tim Whitehead and Johann Sadie, the Stormers will welcome a new star to challenge Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh for a place in the starting XV.
Du Plessis has already made an impact this season, with an eye-catching performance against Boland in the Stormers' opening pre-season match.
"He'll be a big thing for us either this season or the next one," Fleck stated.
By Timmy Hancox
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