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    Du Plessis to eclipse All Black?

    2013-03-01 13:07

    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.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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