Du Plessis excited to fill Smit’s boots

2011-09-26 09:22

South Africa’s Bismarck du Plessis looks set to make his first World Cup start against Samoa on Friday but the hooker is aware that even a brilliant performance is unlikely to secure him the berth permanently.

One of the best hookers in the world, the 27-year-old has had the misfortune to have spent his entire international career as understudy to inspirational Springboks captain John Smit.

Smit is expected to be rested for Friday’s fourth Pool D game after playing 15 successive World Cup matches stretching back through South Africa’s triumphant campaign of 2007 to the 2003 tournament.

The fiery hooker, also part of the 2007 world champion squad, showed no sign on tension at what could be a one-off start.

“I’m really excited to play,” Du Plessis told reporters in Taupo. “I’ve been on the bench for two games and wasn’t involved for one game. I just hope I can fill John’s boots.

“I think John played well in the two games he played and he led from the front.”

“I think John’s record speaks for itself,” he added. “The things he taught me when I was a youngster arriving in Durban, I’m just happy to get the opportunity to repay him for what he’s done for me.

“He’s always been a mentor and I’ve got great respect for him.”

South Africa have won all three of their group games so far, making light of the “Pool of Death” tag in all but their 17-16 opening victory over Wales.

Samoa, who upset Australia in July and still have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals after comfortably beating Fiji yesterday, will be formidable opponents, Du Plessis said.

“They’re very dangerous, especially their back three with ball in hand. I think their scrums are superb and it was one of their main weapons against Fiji.”

Prop Tendai Mtawarira, known throughout the rugby world simply as “Beast”, will be hoping to be packing down alongside Du Plessis at the North Harbour Stadium on Friday and is also expecting a major physical challenge from the Pacific islanders.

“It’s going to be a forwards kind of battle,” said the Zimbabwe-born loosehead. “It’ll be fighting fire with fire on Friday. Our set pieces are very vital to us but they’re also vital to Samoa.

“We’ve always seen this as a big game for us, especially considering what Samoa did to Australia.”

Having been upset by Ireland last week, Australia are now likely to be South Africa’s opponents in the quarter-finals should the Springboks top Pool D as expected.

“John (Smit) actually spoke to us before training today and told us we don’t care who we are given,” Mtawarira said.
“We just want to play rugby and play our best.”

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