Johannesburg - Tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis may not have had the best of Super Rugby seasons for the woeful Sharks but found a rich vein of form to silence his detractors.
Sharks front-rankers Du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira have been severely criticised by pundits and armchair experts alike for what they perceived to be an indifferent year.
“I don’t think I doubted at any time of the year whether I still have the desire or the skills but unfortunately our season at the Sharks didn’t go as planned,” Du Plessis said.
“It was never because of a lack of trying but I am really happy that we can play better when it matters most.”
Although a host of talented, albeit inexperienced, players came to the fore this year, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer persisted with his tried and tested combinations.
Du Plessis rewarded Meyer for showing faith in the Bok stalwart with two laudable performances against Australia and New Zealand.
He anchored a strong Springbok scrum in both matches while he was also bustling in the loose.
The South African scrum lost some impetus in consecutive weeks when the Bethlehem strongman left the field.
His presence was sorely missed in the final stages of the defeat to New Zealand when he left the field thanks to a knee injury.
His replacement Vincent Koch also had to leave the field in the 62nd minute resulting in uncontested scrums due to both tightheads injured.
“It is actually not sore, it just feels weird, we don’t really know what it is at the moment but it looks like a medial ligament but by grace maybe I will be good,” Du Plessis said.
“I am a quick healer and even if they take a staple gun and staple it on and I can run, I can be good.”
Du Plessis admitted on Saturday the criticism he came under this season did have an influence on his personal life.
“It is a very lonely place if you don’t have a successful season, then it is easy to find mistakes and criticism as such,” he said.
“If you give me one guy that it doesn’t affect, I will give you a liar, so it does affect you but as a player you’ve had enough criticism to know how to deal with it and to know whose opinion really counts.
“But the thing is it hurts your family because they read it more than you and people confront them.”
The 32-year-old brushed the criticism aside and sent a strong message that he is anything but a spent force.
“If you play rugby long enough and read in the papers that you are s#*t enough times, you have to pick yourself up,” he said.