Big year for Bismarck
What a big year this could be for Bismarck du Plessis.
The Sharks hooker can finally deliver on his undoubted potential, not only at the Sharks, but at the Springboks as well.
In both instances he can finally cast his own shadow as the "main man" at hooker, with John Smit now finally out of the picture and adding value to Saracens over in St. Albans.
After watching Du Plessis on the weekend though, I was a tad worried. We have always known that the hooker was feisty and at times allowed a rush of blood to the head to impact on his discipline, but it used to be okay.
We all felt a little bit of sympathy for the young man who must have been frustrated with the whole Smit situation.
I mean, surely “Bissie” was allowed to vent some of his frustrations on his opponents, as he was unfairly treated at both Sharks and Springboks and surely he was allowed to act just outside of the laws when playing for the Boks? He was a victim, so was entitled to some revenge when given the (playing) opportunity. Right?
Things have changed now and so has the public sentiment. There was some resentment among fans last year when Du Plessis was clearly unhappy when subbed against the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth. Some felt he should have accepted the call from the coaches box and got on with it. Others felt that his actions were justified and he had every reason to feel aggrieved.
He was promised a start (which he got) and a full match (which he did not get), so had a reason to be unhappy, especially as he was playing out of his skin, reminding everyone how good he really is.
The 2012 season sees Heyneke Meyer in charge at the Boks and Du Plessis uncontested at the Sharks.
I know Meyer rates Du Plessis highly, but I also know that he will have a serious look at the Bulls' Chiliboy Ralepelle and Cheetahs No 2 Adriaan Strauss, two players he also rates greatly.
What concerned me on the weekend was the way in which Du Plessis went about his business. He was ill-disciplined, gave away crucial penalties (which ultimately cost his team the match) and one could hardly distinguish the line between his robust and his dirty play.
This was not the type of performance expected from South Africa’s (and possibly the world’s) premier hooker. Especially as across from him, Ralepelle delivered a very impressive and smooth performance.
No off the ball stuff, no unnecessary penalties, no arguing with the referee, no back chat, nothing. Ralepelle produced a professional performance, Du Plessis did not.
If someone not familiar with South African rugby visited Loftus last weekend, he probably would have described Ralepelle’s performance as polished and that of Du Plessis as rugged and full of potential.
Yet, by now, after 82 Super Rugby Caps and 42 Test matches, we need to see mature performances by Du Plessis every time.
He is our best hooker and with that comes a certain responsibility. I have interviewed Du Plessis many times in his career and he is a well rounded young man off the field.
It is now time we see a statesmanlike and professional performance from him every time he takes the field.
Being number one now demands that of him.
The Bok coach doesn’t owe any player anything and does not take kindly to stupid and ill-disciplined play.
Strauss and Ralepelle should be Meyer’s back-up hookers, but if Du Plessis does not get his act together, either could easily start for Meyer.
Unfortunately for Stormers hooker Deon Fourie, his injury could cost him dearly, as a delayed start to Super Rugby was the last thing he needed.
Lions No 2 Bandise Maku is another one who could have featured in Meyer’s plans as he is rated as well by his former Bulls mentor.
Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.
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