Springbok Sevens playmaker Branco du Preez is enjoying his opportunity playing for the Golden Lions during the Currie Cup this season.
Branco du Preez came off the bench during the Lions’ 34-17 Currie Cup victory over Griquas in Kimberley – a result that saw the Johannesburg-based franchise jump into a play-off place on the log. After a disappointing start to their campaign, which has already included five losses, back-to-back wins against the Pumas and Griquas has seen the Lions jump back into semi-final contention.
Du Preez has been notable member of the Lions team as he’s one of several sevens players who has made the transition to 15s rugby this season. Others include Ruhan Nel, Seabelo Senatla, Werner Kok (all WP), Rosko Speckman, Cecil Afrika, Chris Dry (all Free State Cheetahs) and Kwagga Smith (Lions).
However, while most of his sevens team-mates feature as a loose forward or outside back, Du Preez is the only player featuring in a tactical position of scrumhalf.
After two appearances, he’s enjoying the experience of provincial rugby after a seven-year absence.
“I think the last time I played provincial 15s rugby was at U21 level at the Bulls in 2010! So yes, it’s been a while,” Du Preez told MyPlayers. “The opportunity to play for the Lions came my way through my agent and the union. I saw it as an exciting opportunity, especially considering the successful and expansive brand of rugby the Lions have shown at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level in recent seasons.
“It was a difficult start to the current Currie Cup tournament, losing so many games early on. But the guys have bounced back quite nicely and we want to carry this momentum right through to the semi-finals. The players just needed time to adjust to one another as a team as there are a few new faces, including me. We remain positive going into a tough schedule of fixtures coming up.”
Du Preez added that he’s appreciated the game time given to him over the past two weeks.
“I’ve been surprised to receive so much game time since arriving at the Lions. I played about 10 minutes in my first game and almost 20 minutes last weekend,” said Du Preez. “The guys have welcomed me on and off the field, which helped me settle in quite quickly.
“Playing scrumhalf in 15s is very different compared to sevens. In 15s rugby, you don’t have mucspace and your main focus is pass accuracy and service delivery from the rucks and set-pieces. The Lions coaches have worked really hard to prepare for the Currie Cup and I want to make a positive contribution to the team’s aspirations.”
While Du Preez is focused on helping the Lions achieve Currie Cup success, he’s looking forward to an exciting sevens season ahead.
“Playing 15s is great as it keeps me active during the off-season. This will help as we have a busy sevens schedule over the next year, which includes the World Series, World Cup and Commonwealth Games,” said Du Preez. “After winning the World Series title, we want to do well as defending champions and bring more success back home to South Africa. It’s going to be a tough challenge for the players as we’ll be playing week in and week out, but the coaches have plans in place to ensure our bodies are managed properly throughout the season.”
By Gareth Duncan