at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Bismarck du Plessis can’t wait to throw the ball to the Springbok “statue” in the Rugby Championship.
No, that’s not a new lineout call that the Boks have come up with, but rather Du Plessis’s description of Stormers lock Andries Bekker. Injury has kept Bekker out of the Bok side for two years, as he played his last Test in July 2010, against the All Blacks in Wellington.
Now finally over his troublesome back injury, the 2.08-metre giant is back in the Bok set-up, and will hope to get the nod at No 5 ahead of Juandré Kruger for next Saturday’s clash against Argentina at Newlands.
“I don’t think there is a hooker who doesn’t look forward to throwing to a statue! To be honest with you, I was talking as a player who has played against Andries. It’s a certain area where you single out an individual and try to play around him,” Du Plessis said this week.
“I think that he has been arguably the best lineout forward in the whole competition when he did play, and he also carried a lot of ball and made a lot of metres for the Stormers. I’m really looking forward to playing with him if I get the chance.”
“Los Pumas” don’t have the best lineout in the world, but their scrum is no pushover. Their renowned “bajada” scrum tactic – where all eight forwards tighten up and push in the direction of the hooker – has made them difficult opponents over the years. They are a confrontational side who try to unsettle more-fancied opponents with their physicality.
Of course, that is exactly what Du Plessis is all about. He is part of an all-Sharks front row alongside his brother Jannie and Tendai Mtawarira, and they will have to win that scrum battle if the Boks are going to get on top at Newlands.
“They are a great side who pride themselves in their scrum, which has been a great weapon of theirs. Then their forwards with their pick and gos, and the close plays, it will make it physical,” Bismarck said.
“They are a really strong scrumming side, but what’s nice is that playing together (at the Sharks) makes it so much easier for us. We can have momentum throughout the year. What really helped me, Jannie and Beast is that we can play together, and that’s how we can help each other. But the pressure and strength comes from the back five, and if we get that, we can manage it and get over the line.”
The 28-year-old Du Plessis, who has 45 Test caps, comes off an exhausting Super Rugby campaign with the Sharks, whose players only got back to South Africa on Sunday night and joined the Bok camp on Tuesday. And while some of the Sharks players such as Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel sat out of a few training sessions, Du Plessis just keeps going.
“We did travel a lot, but for me, travelling is really what you make of it. If you are going to look up at it as a big mountain to climb, or as an opportunity to perform at your peak is the big challenge. Travelling to Argentina is a great thing, as it is a little bit of a change of environment as we play against the same opposition every year over and over again,” he said.
“Coming into the Bok squad, you want to play there, as it’s the best people in South Africa. To be able to play for the Boks again is an awesome feeling. I didn’t sleep last night (due to the jet lag), but I guess that happens!
“I think it’s a step in the right direction to play against Argentina, with the big rivalry and Doc Craven helped them to almost form rugby in their country. It will be a great thing for me to be part of the first game against them.”
Meanwhile, Argentina will arrive in Cape Town on Monday, and coach Santiago Phelan has named a powerful 26-man squad and chosen experienced loose forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe as the captain.
There are a number of European-based stars, including classy flyhalf-centre Juan Martin Hernandez, who has played for the Sharks\ previously.
Eusebio Guinazu, who can play at prop and hooker, also spent some time at Western Province a few years ago.
*Du Plessis has one Test cap as a prop
*Is part of the 23rd set of brothers (with Jannie) to play for the Boks
*Has scored the most tries by a Bok hooker (6)
*Holds the Bok record for most Tests with a brother (23)
*Owns a farm with brother Jannie outside Bethlehem
Horacio Agulla, Patricio Albacete, Marcos Ayerza, Marcelo Bosch, Martin Bustos Moyano, Gonzalo Camacho, Manuel Carizza, Agustin Creevy, Julio Farias, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt), Santiago Fernandez, Juan Figallo, Alvaro Galindo, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Eusebio Guinazu, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff, Martin Landajo, Tomas Leonardi, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Martin Rodriguez, Rodrigo Roncero, Federico Nicolas Sanchez, Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Vallejos Cinalli, Nicolas Vergallo.