Is it time for the robust Bismarck du Plessis to be a permanent fixture at hooker for the Springboks?
With the introduction of the ELVs, rugby has changed in its nature from being a game for all sizes to becoming one where even the biggest men on the field have to be athletic.
Ashfak Mohamed writers in the Cape times that Du Plessis was in superb form during the away leg of the Tri-Nations. He was outstanding in all the facets of the game against the All Blacks, before being suspended for the Wallaby Test after an apparent eye-gouging incident involving New Zealand blindside flank Adam Thomson.
Du Plessis carried the ball with conviction, almost always getting over the advantage line. His lineout throwing was for the most part accurate, while his work rate off the ball, as well as his tackling rate, was very high.
The Sharks strongman also showed another skill when he stole a few balls at the breakdowns, which indicated that he could be an extra loose forward.
Du Plessis was severely missed against the Wallabies, where his confrontational approach and ability to clean out at the breakdowns would have kept the likes of George Smith and Rocky Elsom busy.
His ball-carrying ability would also have given the Boks some much-needed momentum against an Australian side that were dominating the tackle area.
But if you’re choking on your sandwich, I am not saying that John Smit should be dropped! I think that Smit can be accommodated at tighthead prop.
His captaincy skills have been well documented, while his rapport with the players on and off the field is excellent. He is well respected by his peers, which is one of the main reasons why Bok coach Peter de Villiers, who also holds him in high regard, decided to keep Smit on as Bok captain this season.
Smit often played tighthead prop for his French club, Clermont, earlier this year. And with the ELVs demanding more athletic players in every position, Smit’s years as a hooker will make him a very mobile prop.
Smit is a strong scrummager as well, while, if need be, he could even continue throwing in at the lineouts if there are concerns about Du Plessis’s throwing ability. I think the move would also prolong Smit’s career, as props can generally play well into their 30s.
Remember too that Smit started his rugby career at prop. He played at loosehead when he captained the SA under-21 side to world championship glory in Argentina in 1999 under the coaching of Eric Sauls. Hanyani Shimange was the starting hooker in that side.
But he then changed to hooker the following year, when he made his Springbok debut. He has on occasion moved to tighthead for the Sharks and the Boks over the last few years.
Following this plan would also resolve the Sharks’ potential problem now that they have again signed Smit from Clermont.
Du Plessis surely cannot still be on the bench for the Sharks any longer, as he had to wait several years before he could even be the first-choice hooker for his province.
Starting with Du Plessis and moving Smit to prop would also allow a dynamic impact player such as the speedy Schalk Brits to come into the equation.
There may have been doubts about Du Plessis’s ability and his temperament up to now, but despite the suspension, I think he has proven that he has overcome those problems and that he has matured enough to be in the starting line-up.Tweet