An emotional Bismarck du Plessis says it is with a heavy heart that he will be leaving the Sharks, a team for which he has shed blood, sweat and tears over an illustrious 11 year career.
Du Plessis, along with his brother Jannie and flanker Willem Alberts, will all be playing in what is expected to be their final game for the Sharks on Saturday when they will face the Stormers at King’s Park.
“I read a scripture recently, which said ‘teach me to number my days’, and so yes, it’s a very emotional week,” Du Plessis commented yesterday.
“The thing is that I don’t want any accolades, for me it’s a very sad day to be leaving the Sharks, I guess I never thought this day would arrive. I’m a Sharks boy through and through, I love the Sharks with all my heart and I’ve never wanted to play for any other side in the world.”
There has certainly been plenty of back-and-forth negotiations with the Du Plessis brothers since the beginning of the year, and it is perhaps with even some sense of reluctance that they will be heading abroad after the World Cup later this year.
Playing for another South African side had never been an option for the loyal Sharks duo, with Du Plessis describing the coastal franchise as their “dream team”.
“The most special memories will have just been to be able to wake up every day in Durban, open the curtains and see the beautiful ocean. And also just to experience the amazing culture we have at the Sharks, it’s been the most special thing in my life to be able to wake up and play for the Sharks. But I would have been happy just to play 20 games for Bethlehem dorp, and I never thought I’d have this privilege to play for the Sharks.”
Yet from humble beginnings Du Plessis has gone on to become the most capped Sharks player ever at Super Rugby level, with 129 appearances.
“I arrived here when I was the seventh best hooker in the Free State, but I came down when I got the opportunity from (former CEO Brian) van Zyl and (then coach) Kevin Putt, who gave me the opportunity to play rugby at the Sharks. I’m very grateful to them for sticking their necks out and giving me that opportunity.”
Du Plessis said he would leave with no regrets, but just immense appreciation to those who had shaped his career.
“A lot of people might measure themselves on the amount of trophies they’ve won, but I measure myself on the type of person I am as I leave here… I remember writing my last exams as a student, and packing up all my stuff in my varsity room, stuffing it all into this little Volkswagen beetle I had and driving about 12 hours from Bloemfontein to Durban in a car that could only go about 80 (kmh), and I had to fill up about six times because it only had a small petrol tank. But as I leave, and if I come back, I think I will do so as a better person.”
Du Plessis particularly paid tribute to John Smit and Johan Ackermann for the significant roles they played during the early stages of his career, while he said there were a number of current teammates who he remained indebted to.
“It was always the plan for Jannie and I to play rugby together… but to be able to play here at the Sharks with him has been beyond our wildest dreams. Another player who has been like a brother to me is Beast (Mtawarira). Beast, Jannie and I must have played 150 games together. Then JP Pietersen – who got married over the weekend – I can’t remember a game that I didn’t play with him. Then there’s Odwa Ndungane, and Ryan Kankowski, who has been my roommate from 2005. We went through a lot together, it’s really special and that’s why we’re such a close-knit group. We’re like brothers.”
And although this Saturday’s clash is expected to be Du Plessis’s last in Sharks colours, at 31-years-of-age, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a return in some capacity in the future.
“For me, I am a passionate, passionate Shark, I don’t know where I will be heading exactly, I’m a very principle-based guy. But if I ever get the opportunity again to come back, and the coaching staff think I can add value, I will most likely take them up on that offer. I will miss this place with everything I have.”