Durban – Sharks director of rugby Jake White is hoping by awarding Bismarck du Plessis the captaincy, he can eradicate any final weaknesses “the best hooker in the world” may have within his game.
The Springbok star was pronounced captain of the Durban side for the 2014 season on Thursday, taking over the armband from flanker Keegan Daniel.
“Everyone knows how good he is,” White said in Durban.
“I’m hoping that this role of captaincy, but more importantly, with the change in environment we are creating and the people we are putting around him, we will really upskill him in terms of the things he is weak at.
“He knows what his limitations are, even in terms of how he’s going to be a captain. I’m just hoping – I don’t believe he can’t get better – that he can be that phenomenal player consistently.”
Du Plessis, 29, was praised by the new Sharks boss, who also said having former Springbok captain John Smit as chief executive officer at the union, would aid his progress.
“He's a freak and one of the best players in the world,” White said.
“There's no doubt in my mind he's the best hooker in the world.
“The one thing I respect about him is he could probably go anywhere in the world and earn five times more than he's earning and still get the guarantee from (national coach) Heyneke Meyer to be a Springbok in the next World Cup.
“But he's still chosen to stay in this province. If that doesn’t show people he's dedicated to the Sharks then obviously we're on a different page. This is not a reward system for that, but it just shows his genuineness.
“He's also not going to get too many better mentors in world rugby than to knock on the door and go to chat to the chap that's captained South Africa the most times.”
White described the new captain as “a winner and rare breed” considering his record of having won three world cups – under-19, under-21 and senior – before the age of 24.
Three more Springboks, Odwa Ndungane, Jean Deysel and Patrick Lambie, would serve as vice captains for the coastal side.
Du Plessis gets his first chance to lead the team in a pre-season friendly against English club Saracens at Allianz Park in London next Saturday, with the Sharks scheduled to kick-off their Super Rugby campaign against the Bulls on February 15.
Meanwhile, White, who named a 26-man squad to travel to the UK on Wednesday, admitted his satisfaction with pre-season training in Durban.
“It gave me a real chance to work with the next group of Sharks players and the opportunity to see what's in the pipeline and where we might be short.
“We have 40 guys in our squad and 37 or 38 of them are now available and fit for selection in that first game.”
The three men nursing injuries are SP Marais, Anton Bresler and Jacques Botes.
Ryan Kankowski and JP Pietersen are both expected to return from Japan, where they are playing club rugby, within the opening two weeks of February. – Sapa