Star hooker Bismarck du Plessis says he ranks the Sharks’ Currie Cup victory “right up there” with winning the World Cup.
Now, however, he has set his sights on helping the Sharks to Super 14 success, which he described as the team’s “ultimate goal”. Du Plessis shot to prominence in 2007 and has since become a central figure in the Springbok and Sharks teams.
Craig lewis writes for the Daily news that with Bismarck’s substantial physical presence complemented by his incredible mobility, the big man is sure to play a vital role in the Sharks’ Super 14 campaign this year.
“You play this game with the burning desire to be the best that you can be as a team,” Du Plessis said when looking ahead to the imminent Super 14. “I know that this Sharks team has the talent, the ability and the desire to be the best team in the competition.”
This season, Du Plessis is likely to predominantly fill the No 2 berth, with Springbok captain John Smit set to play a utility role in the front row, playing at hooker and tighthead prop.
“The team always comes first and although there is rivalry between John and myself, it is healthy,” Du Plessis said. “To have John in the side improves us as a team because he brings so much more to the table than just good leadership skills and experience.
“I have said it before, but there is no one in the game who I respect more than John Smit.”
In the pre-season, Du Plessis has been battling with a hamstring injury sustained on the Springboks end-of-year tour and has also been nursing an injured knee. But, the 24-year-old said, he was confident he’d be “fighting fit” by the time the Sharks open their account in the Super 14 on February 14.
“The hamstring injury that I sustained on the end-of-year tour came at a bad time and was a disappointing end to the 2008 season. However, you need to take positives from every situation and in this case I was granted some extra time to get myself in peak physical condition for the tough Super 14.
Contact in the Super 14 is intense and you need to be very physical to dominate your opponents.”
However, Du Plessis is likely to be kept out of action this Friday when the Sharks play an internal friendly at the Absa Stadium.
The match is closed to the public, but will give the Sharks management an opportunity to test their fit first-choice players against their second-stringers.
It is probable, though, that Du Plessis will get some game-time against the Bulls on February 4, which will be the Sharks’ last session before the start of the Super 14.
During last year’s campaign, the Sharks had to cross the Tasman Sea four times during a gruelling five-match overseas tour, but despite the fact that this year’s fixtures draw is far more favourable, Du Plessis said they couldn’t rest easy.
“Fixtures don’t win you the Super 14. You have to make sure you are the best side in the competition over 13 weeks, irrespective of how many teams you have to play away. We know what we are in for.
“The four weeks on the road that’s in store for us is still tough but it’s an incentive to increase our mental toughness and test our determination and character in extra challenging times.”
In recent years, the Sharks have become renowned for their extremely powerful pack and this year their front row will predominantly have an all-Springbok feel to it.
So did Du Plessis feel the Sharks’ scrum had the potential to really dominate this year? “Talk is cheap, money buys the whiskey,” was his answer.Tweet