Hooker debate: Bismarck ‘just wants to play’

2011-06-01 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — With the heated debate on whether Springbok captain John Smit or fellow Rugby World Cup-winner Bismarck du Plessis should start at hooker for the Springboks and the Sharks raging on, Du Plessis says he simply wants to play.

Smit, who was in May confirmed as Springbok skipper for the 2011 international season, has been used in all three positions in the front row by Sharks coach John Plumtree in Super Rugby this season, much to the disapproval of Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, who wants to see Smit used as a specialist hooker.

Du Plessis, the current consensus form hooker in world rugby, feels too much has been made of the positional battle, and says he merely wants to produce consistently good performances in order to retain his place in the Springbok squad.

“I certainly don’t enjoy sitting on the bench. I’d be lying if I said I did. I think every player wants to start, but it doesn’t really matter to me.

“I have great respect for John — he’s always helped me to improve my game and it’s great to play with him.

“At the end of the day, whether I’m starting or playing off the bench, I just want to play good rugby to stand a chance of playing for the Springboks in the Tri-Nations and the World Cup.”

The 27-year-old indicated that he will likely re-sign with the Durban-based side at the conclusion of his current contract.

“My contract [at the Sharks] expires later this year. We’re currently in talks with the Sharks and I’m not really looking at other options at this stage.”

Touching on the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign, Du Plessis said, “We’ve lost a few games we shouldn’t have and we only have ourselves to blame for that, but we have a couple of games left.”

“We’ve had a couple of injuries in certain positions that impacted the dynamic of the team but we have great depth and are almost back to a full complement of players,” he said.

Du Plessis added that due to the length of the expanded Super Rugby tournament, each team will be faced with a test of character and depth at some stage of the season.

“I don’t think any team can really be at the top of their game for a full 21 weeks. Every team would’ve experienced some up and downs this season … for us it’s not about the fall but how we get up from that fall that’s important,” he said.

With the Tri-Nations commencing on July 23 and the Rugby World Cup reaching its hundred-day countdown today, Du Plessis said the players in the Sharks camp aren’t getting ahead of themselves and are firmly focused on clinching that elusive Super Rugby title.

“We’re fully focused on Super Rugby. It’s a competition we really want to win.The Bulls are the only South African side to have won it, so that’s our main priority at this stage.”

Du Plessis, noted that the Springboks’ hopes of successfully defending their World Cup crown will rest on each and every member of the squad.

“All 28 players that are going to the World Cup are going to play a vital role. In 2007 each player had a specific role. The fringe players are going to play a major part,” he said.

“Frans [Steyn] wasn’t in the 22, Jean [De Villiers] started, and he kicked the winning penalty in the final. So I believe the fringe players are going to be the most important in terms of keeping up the spirit and confidence level within the squad,” he added.

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