Former Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis has been thrust straight into the Bulls starting line-up for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against Leinster in Dublin.
Bulls coach Jake White recruited Du Plessis a few weeks ago after the front-rower moved back to South Africa after six years with French club Montpellier.
And while the 37-year-old was seen by many as a mentor for the younger hookers in the squad, White made it clear that Du Plessis was not coming to Pretoria to be an assistant coach, but rather a player.
His years of European rugby experience will stand the Bulls in good stead in the URC, and it doesn’t come bigger than taking on multiple PRO Rugby champions Leinster at the Aviva Stadium (6.15pm SA time kickoff).
Du Plessis replaces Joe van Zyl, who started at No 2 in the Currie Cup final victory over the Sharks two weeks ago and will now play off the bench.
Of course, another big boost is the return of star flyhalf Johan Goosen, who missed the Currie Cup final due to Covid-19, with Chris Smith moving down to the bench.
White has opted to keep the rest of the team together, with experienced centres Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe retaining their positions, with Cornal Hendricks continuing at right wing, while Walt Steenkamp partners Ruan Nortjé at lock.
On the bench, former Blitzboks captain Stedman Gans returns as a utility back cover.
“We have had some good momentum in the South African domestic scene, and we hope we can transfer that form to the URC,” White said on Friday.
“We are in for a great challenge in this quality championship against competitive opposition. To have the opportunity of facing a top side like Leinster Rugby will be the perfect opportunity to measure ourselves against one of the best sides in Europe.
“We have opted for continuity in our selection, with a team that has a good blend of youth and experience.
“We are confident that the inclusion of Bismarck du Plessis, whose experience is invaluable, will add great value both in our play and giving some direction as a leader.”
15 David Kriel 14 Cornal Hendricks 13 Lionel Mapoe 12 Harold Vorster 11 Madosh Tambwe 10 Johan Goosen 9 Zak Burger 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Arno Botha 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain) 5 Ruan Nortjé 4 Walt Steenkamp 3 Mornay Smith 2 Bismarck du Plessis 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Jacques van Rooyen 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 Jacques du Plessis 21 Keagan Johannes 22 Chris Smith 23 Stedman Gans.