Du Plessis to lead Sharks

2014-01-17 00:00

THE highly-competitive Bismarck du Plessis, described as a “freak” by new coach Jake White, will captain the Sharks in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

The 29-year-old Springbok hooker will take over the captaincy from Keegan Daniel, who has led the Sharks for the past two years and was in charge last October when the Sharks won the Currie Cup title at Newlands.

With White as the director of coaching, John Smit as the CEO and Du Plessis as the new captain, there has been a complete overhaul of the Sharks’ leadership at King’s Park since the start of the last Super Rugby season.

White, in making the appointment yesterday, paid glowing tribute to Du Plessis, describing him as the “best hooker in the world” and said the decision was a natural one for him.

“There is no doubt in my mind he’s a freak and one of the best players in the world.”

In spite of injuries in recent seasons, and the presence of John Smit in the Sharks squad for a number of seasons, Du Plessis has won 103 Super Rugby caps. He has also made 57 appearances for the Springboks.

White said he had been impressed by Du Plessis’s commitment and loyalty to the Sharks.

“What I respect is that he could go anywhere in the world and earn five times what he is [earning] now and still get the guarantee from [national coach] Heyneke Meyer about being a Springbok in the next World Cup.

“He’s chosen to stay here and, if that doesn’t show people he’s dedicated to the Sharks, then we’re on a different page.”

White added that he was not appointing Du Plessis captain as any reward for turning down overseas offers and staying on in Durban.

“But by remaining in Durban it shows he is genuine.”

White said that the hooker’s qualities were known throughout the rugby-playing world but he was looking to lift Du Plessis to fresh heights as a player and leader. He said that he hoped the captaincy role, the change in environment and the personalities around him would add to Du Plessis’s skills.

“Bismarck knows what his limitations are, even as a captain. He won’t get too many mentors better in world rugby than the one [John Smit] two floors up from him who has captained South Africa the most times.

“I don’t believe he can’t get better and I’m just hoping that he can be that phenomenal player consistently.”

White said that he understood that Daniel would be disappointed at being replaced as captain and he sympathised with him.

“That’s natural and Keegan’s been a good captain. But this is about doing what is best for the team rather than the individual. The dynamics in the group are changing and there are some new guys who have joined the squad and I’ve worked with Bismarck before.

“Bismarck is a winner and has enormous presence in rugby.”

The former World Cup-winning coach said that the decision to replace Daniel had not been his alone.

“I consulted widely with people involved in this organisation and John Smit was one of them. We’ve decided that it’s the way forward for this group,” said White.

“I need to stress that Bismarck brings a winning culture to the Sharks. He’s a winner. He’s won an U19 World Cup, an U21 World Cup, a senior World Cup and a Currie Cup. There aren’t too many guys that can put that on their CVs.

“Both he and Ruan Pienaar had won all three World Cups before they were 22 years old and not too many can boast that kind of achievement in their rugby careers.”

He said handing Du Plessis the captaincy was not aimed at tempering the hooker’s robust approach.

“I’ve never had an issue with Bismarck’s discipline. This is not a reward or trade-off to do anything different,” he said.

White yesterday also named flank Jean Deysel, flyhalf Pat Lambie and wing/fullback Odwa Ndungane as Sharks’ vice-captains.

“The thinking there is if one is off the field another can replace him. The chances are one of those three vice-captains will be called upon to captain the side for certain periods of the game,” said White.

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