Bismarck du Plessis (Twitter/@MHR_officiel)
- Veteran Bismarck du Plessis won’t be playing a mere part-time role for the Bulls following confirmation of his signing on Friday.
- In fact, the 37-year-old Springbok hooker is expecting to be afforded some significant game-time as the United Rugby Championship looms.
- Bulls mentor Jake White insists that his arrival doesn’t mean he’ll stop promoting his young band of hookers.
Wily Bismarck du Plessis hasn’t joined the Bulls just for ceremonial and mentoring purposes, he’s expecting a fair amount of game-time as he aims to top off his legacy as one of South African rugby’s greatest hookers.
The 37-year-old Springbok, capped 79 times for his country, on Friday signed an agreement with the franchise that will keep him at Loftus for the next two years following his return home after a six-year stint with Montpellier.
Du Plessis previously worked with Jake White, the Bulls’ directory of rugby, at the French club as well as the Springboks and Sharks.
“Bismarck is not going to be happy just sitting on the sidelines and being like an assistant coach,” White said on Friday ahead of this weekend’s Currie Cup final between his troops and the Sharks at Loftus.
“He’s definitely going to play, but it’s also not a case of one guy coming into the setup and just making all the difference. It’s a collective effort.
“We’re very excited about having Bismarck here.”
Reports of the front rower’s recruitment were plentiful over the past fortnight, with White reiterating that the Bulls’ (and South Africa’s) inaugural European campaign in the newly created United Rugby Championship necessitates having players familiar with conditions on that continent.
“I also want to emphasise that I’ve coached in Europe and we need a player like Bismarck or a Jacques du Plessis or Johan Goosen in matches over there,” he said.
“It’s completely different game. We’re playing in Connacht, which is on Ireland’s west coast, where there’s terrible weather. It’s going one of those really tough games to cope with and you’re going to need a guy like Bismarck.”
Neatly, his on-field presence will still make him an on-field mentor to look up to.
“When he’s on the field, he’s going to be helping young props like Mornay Smith, Simphiwe Matanzima and Gerhard Steenekamp in terms of the art of scrumming in Europe and understanding the pressure,” said White.
“I don’t want to underestimate the value of a player like that, who has the experience and can help team-mates handle pressure situations that they haven’t previousy been exposed to.”
Du Plessis can be considered a final piece of White’s carefully and impressively crafted senior squad as he has predominantly promoted his exciting band of young No 2s in Johan Grobbelaar, Schalk Erasmus, Joe van Zyl and Jan-Hendrik Wessels.
But the Bulls mentor stated emphatically that it’s a policy that will not change and that his rookies know exactly what Du Plessis’ arrival means for them.
“I’ve got incredible hookers. Grobbies is with the Boks and I’ve just jump-started Joe above Schalk for a final, which shows I have confidence in them,” said White.
“I’ve chatted to them. They don’t need to read in anything. It’s about creating two full, competitive teams to cope with the demands of the URC and Currie Cup, which will run concurrently early next year.
“This is truly a group effort.”
Kick-off in Saturday’s final is at 17:00.
15 David Kriel, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Substitutes: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Ruan Combrinck/David Coetzer, 23 Stravino Jacobs
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Wener Kok, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona
Substitutes: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Reniel Hugo, 21 Lucky Dlepu, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Anthony Volmink