Jake White has nailed it with the signing of the old bull Bismarck du Plessis, writes Mark Keohane.
Du Plessis is still good enough to play Test rugby, but it is what the 37 year-old veteran can bring to the Bulls set-up that is exciting.
Du Plessis, as a player, commands presence and respect, but it is the role he will play as mentor to the trio of youthful No 2s that is the most significant aspect of another of White’s inspiring signings.
White, since taking charge of the Vodacom Bulls, has perfected a recruitment drive that balances performance with mentorship of one of the most youthful squads in South Africa.
White in the past 18 months, has blooded an entire squad of youngsters in the Currie Cup and Rainbow Cup, but he has strategically also reintroduced bloody fine South African veterans to the mix.
White has invested in Marcel Coetzee, Jacques du Plessis, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Cornal Hendricks, Morne Steyn and now Du Plessis to add menace and playing pedigree to the promise and potential of his kids.
‘I met with Bissie and I am thrilled to have a player of his class on the books,’ White told Keo.co.za. ‘I have long history of coaching him at the Springboks, at the Sharks and also at Montpellier. He has always been among elite group of world class hookers and the experience and expertise he brings to any squad set-up is huge.
‘I have three of the most talented youngsters playing hooker in Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Johan van Zyl and Johan Grobbelaar, with Grobbies having had his first taste of a national call-up. I’ve converted Wessels from loosehead prop to hooker and I believe he will be huge for the Springboks in the future. He is learning his trade and what a privilege for him to learn from one of the best in world rugby in Bismarck.’
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White, as coach of Montpellier, won the club their first European title, with the likes of Bismarck and Jacques du Plessis, and both Du Plessis’ and Goosen were instrumental in Montpellier winning a second European title earlier this year.
White, whose Bulls have won 20 successive matches at Loftus Versfeldt, is a firm believer that no team succeeds on an exclusive policy of youth.
‘You have to find the balance between the best young talent and hardened veterans still good enough to have Test aspirations. I would like to think we have got that balance right with those seasoned veterans we have managed to get back to South Africa from Europe, the United Kingdom and Japan. Their impact has been immediate.’
White said the biggest lesson he took from the past two seasons was the need for greater maturity in his squad.
‘The exodus of experienced players to overseas clubs certainly has made our domestic competitions more vulnerable because so many teams have had to rely on the potential of youth. Our Currie Cup teams are very young and we saw just how young when they played against the British & Irish Lions.
‘For us at the Bulls to be competitive and successful in the United Rugby Championship, it was imperative to invest in players who have been there and done it and who are still good enough to do it. They bring so much to the changeroom, as players and as mentors. Bismarck, as the latest example, will be huge for the Bulls.’
Du Plessis, in a recent interview with SA Rugby Magazine, spoke of the benefits of his time with Montpellier.
Du Plessis has played 338 professional matches, including 79 Tests for the Springboks, 140 matches for the Sharks and 108 matches for Montpellier. He has scored 70 tries.
BISMARCK’S JOURNEY FROM BLOEMFONTEIN to PRETORIA
2005 – Moves from Free State to the Sharks, wins the U21 World Cup with South Africa.
2007 – Test debut vs Australia. Wins the 2007 World Cup with the Springboks.
2008 – Wins the Currie Cup with the Sharks.
2009 – Wins the series against the British & Irish Lions with the Springboks. Wins the Tri-Nations.
2010 – Wins the Currie Cup with the Sharks.
2011 – Second World Cup, in New Zealand.
2012 – Super Rugby finalist with the Sharks.
2013 – Wins the Currie Cup with the Sharks.
2014 – Leads the Sharks in the Super Rugby tournament. The team becomes the first South African side to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch.
2015 – Third World Cup, in England as Springboks win bronze.
2016 – Wins the European Challenge Cup with Montpellier.
2018 – Selected for the Springbok squad, later withdraws.
2021 – Wins the European Challenge Cup with Montpellier.