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Ken Borland

Bismarck back in the starting line-up

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Ken

Bismarck du Plessis, widely regarded as the world’s best hooker, is back in the starting line-up for the Springboks’ crunch Test against the All Blacks in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The South Africans are fortunate, of course, to be able to call on Adriaan Strauss of the Free State Cheetahs as the back-up on the bench, while Saracens star Schalk Brits is also in the wider squad but cannot break into the match-day 23.

The Springboks struggled in the tight phases during the first half of the Rugby Championship and the younger brother of tighthead prop Jannie has never been known as the strongest scrummager, while the inconsistency of his lineout throwing was also exploited by the Argentineans and especially by the Wallabies in Perth.

The most noticeable sign that something was amiss with Bismarck, however, came in the absence of the massive hits, storming ball-carries and steals on the ground that he was famous for last year.

The elevation of Strauss to the starting line-up saw an improvement in the Springboks’ set-pieces but it has also allowed Du Plessis to make more of an impact coming off the bench.

So is Du Plessis’ star on the wane or is this just a temporary loss of form for the Sharks powerhouse?

At the age of 30, it is more likely to be the latter and the Sharks’ insistence on playing Du Plessis in all 17 of their SuperRugby games this year seemed to have diluted the energy of one of the most explosive rugby players in the world.

“Bismarck has played a lot of rugby this year and we always planned to rest him. He’s had a good break now after Adriaan started three in a row, and the selection is purely a rotation, to keep both players fresh,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer confirmed.

“Adriaan is playing some of the best rugby of his whole career, but last week against Australia took a lot out of the players, the ball was in play more than ever before and there were more tackles as well. It doesn’t matter who starts, they both have very strong points and they’re both in-form.”




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