Du Plessis to eclipse All Black?
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Durban – As he reaches the landmark of 100 Super Rugby caps
by presumably running out first for the Sharks in their derby showdown with the
Stormers at Kings Park here on Saturday, Jannie du Plessis might also begin to
contemplate an illustrious record in the competition.
The popular doctor and 30-year-old Springbok first-choice
tighthead -- who has been sporting an impressive, caveman-like beard of late --
would also be a step closer to catching All Black Greg Somerville’s tally of
131 Super Rugby appearances, the best by a prop in Super Rugby.
Somerville retired from the game, aged 33, after one season
for the newest Australian franchise, the Melbourne Rebels, in 2011.
He had been earmarked for a two-year presence with the
Rebels, but decided to quit when he did due to a series of niggles.
Somerville represented the Crusaders during their
trophy-gobbling era from the late 1990s well into the 2000s, and his Super
Rugby career as a whole spanned the period between 1999 and 2011.
The next most capped prop is Wallaby Al Baxter, who only
ever played for the Waratahs in Super Rugby (2000-2011) and earned 121
appearances for the Sydney outfit.
If Du Plessis, who tends to steer clear of major injury and
started 2013 with undimmed appetite against the Cheetahs last weekend, plays
for another two or three seasons – taking him to around 33, nothing too unusual
for a front-ranker -- he ought to be either very close to or already
leapfrogging Somerville for caps.
The Bethlehem-born player earned his first 26 appearances for
the Cheetahs, for whom he made his debut against the Bulls in Bloemfontein in
February 2006, aged 23.
Du Plessis entered the fray as a substitute, replacing
injured CJ van der Linde around the 20-minute mark, in a match eventually won
by the visitors 30-18.
Nathan Sharpe, the Force lock and captain and former Reds
stalwart who stepped down from the first-class arena at the end of last season,
is the most capped player across the positions: 157.
Sharing status as the most-capped South African players in Super
Rugby are utility forwards John Smit (Sharks only) and AJ Venter (Cats, Sharks
and Stormers) with 125 appearances each.
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