'He is still among the top three or four players in our fitness tests'
Bulls head coach Jake White has given a glowing report on veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who starts this season’s BKT URC season at the age of 38.
The hard-bitten hooker won his first Springboks’ cap under White and he went on to make 78 appearances for South Africa. Indeed White would go on to coach him at the Cell C Sharks during their time in Super Rugby and at Montpellier in the Top 14.
“He’s worth his weight in gold,” White told the URC. “In his life, Bismarck has passed every test with flying colours. He got straight As in school, played first team water polo and went to three world cups. He’s the real deal.
“Can he throw better than most hookers? Yes. Does he still dominate in the scrum? Yes. Does he have an aura that people respect on the field? Yes.
“Even though he’s older than his teammates, he is still among the top three or four players in our fitness tests. Like Morne Steyn, he’s a real professional and a role model – you couldn’t ask for more in an older player.”
White happily admits that Bismarck will face stiff competition within the Bulls squad in the position from the likes of 24-year-old Johannes Grobbelaar and the 21-year-old Jan-Hendrik Wessels. “I think this will be a big challenge for Bismarck. But I’ve known him since he was 18 and I’ve coached him for South Africa, as the captain at the Sharks, in the Top 14 and now at the Bulls.
“It’s a wonderful position to be in as a coach. No one is writing him off. In his career, he’s passed all the physical challenges and still does, and he’s never backed down from an emotional challenge. That’s why he has 79 Test caps and is a legend of South African rugby.”
But the value of the veteran’s experience has proved vital for White, not least in their landmark 27-26 URC semi-final win over Leinster in the RDS last term.
“I had a gut feeling about Bismarck. I got a feeling that his presence (would be important) at the back end of the game – talking to the other players, controlling the scrums with the referee – and I thought he was outstanding.”
For his part, Du Plessis is loving his time in Pretoria. “Since I came to play for the Bulls, I have rediscovered my love for rugby,” Du Plessis said in an interview earlier this week.
“It’s probably because it reminds me of when I started at the Sharks – when I was a young player there, guys like Johan Ackermann and Percy Montgomery had a big influence on my career. I would like to give back, even if it is only a small contribution.”
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