Johannesburg - Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis is confident he will return from a lengthy injury layoff by the end of next month.
Du Plessis was injured during a Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina in August, and after undergoing a knee operation, he was told the recovery period was nine months.
"Let me tell you, having a knee operation is no fun. Nine months is a long time," Du Plessis said.
"Since my injury, I have even more respect for a guy like Butch James who has been through big knee injuries about five times, if I am not mistaken.
"Nine months - this is the recovery period I was given by my doctors - is round about end of April but I don’t want to put a time on my return to play as it might be quicker or a little slower.
"My knee feels great so I am positive that I will return within the nine-month period."
While sidelined with injuries, it is not uncommon for professional athletes to engage in activities for which they would usually not have the time.
For the Sharks forward, however, the only place he wants to be is on a rugby field.
"There has not been a single advantage (to being injured) from my point of view. Every game I miss is a game lost forever," Du Plessis said.
"I feel like a kid who is not allowed to play outside in the middle of a beautiful summer’s day."
The role of the hooker in professional rugby has evolved to the point that they now take on responsibilities traditionally associated with the loose-trio, beyond their typical duties in set-pieces and at the tackle area.
Du Plessis, the epitome of this modern mould, said spending a significant amount of time on the bench helped him shape his attitude so he could fulfill that role.
"I really made the mind shift while sitting on the bench for many games. If you play only 20 or 30 minutes you work on every minute little detail to make a big impact in the little time you have," he said.
"I always had good anticipation and used this to good effect to be at the breakdown at the right time, to try and slow down the opposition’s ball or bring about a turnover."
Du Plessis hoped that by doing this, he would one day be able to have the same impact over 80 minutes.
"Plum (Sharks coach John Plumtree) really helped to develop my game when he came from New Zealand so I have to thank him for assisting me in improving my standards."
Professional rugby careers last only a finite number of seasons, and Du Plessis has sought ways of using his B.Comm degree and keeping his mind active for when his retirement day arrives.
Until then, however, he just wants to enjoy the game he loves.
"I would love to play rugby till I die of old age one day, but we all know that is not possible… maybe one day I can raise my family next to my brother on our farm. That is my dream," he said.
"I do have our farming business which keeps me busy and which seems set up well to be a sustainable enterprise for decades to come.
"I also work as a broker which keeps my days busy and hopefully keeps my brain active."
Asked whether he would consider a move overseas, Du Plessis said it was an option to consider when the time was right, but for now, his main priority was getting back onto the field for the Super Rugby campaign.
"I would love to be exposed to new cultures so maybe if the time is right I would consider playing abroad.
"For now my main focus is to get fit and just play rugby to the best of my ability."