Veteran tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis is confident that the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks can remain a dominant force in the game provided director of rugby Rassie Erasmus stays in charge of the team and they continue to play traditional Bok rugby.
The Boks won the World Cup by beating England in the final in Japan last month to add to the titles they won in 1995 and 2007 – when Du Plessis was a member of the squad coached by Jake White. He said yesterday he wasn’t at all shocked that the Boks had gone all the way in Japan.
“I’m not at all surprised the Boks won the World Cup,” said veteran Du Plessis, who has joined the Lions ahead of next year’s Super Rugby competition.
“Rassie was my first coach at Free State, and he taught me so much, as a player and a person. I thought (when he took the job) if he could do half of what he did with us (at the Free State Cheetahs) with the cream of South Africa then the Boks would be good.
“Rassie’s plan in Japan was perfect. If you look at the whole tournament there were only 12 minutes against New Zealand that the Boks weren’t the best team on the field, only 12 minutes… now that’s deserving of winning the World Cup.”
Du Plessis added that for the Boks to remain a proper force in the game all that had to happen was for the team to keep on playing traditional Bok rugby.
“They must just keep doing what they’ve been doing. It’s about having a good set-piece, kicking when necessary, and running when it’s on and sticking to one’s guns. It’s what’s always worked for the Boks and it’s what worked in Japan. There’s no reason for anyone there to try and reinvent the wheel,” he said. Du Plessis added that he was sure the victory would help halt the flow of South African players out of the country.
“No one will want to leave the country and this team if the coach has talked to them and told them he’s prepared to invest in them,” said Du Plessis. “The Boks are settled now, too, which helps and the players look happy in the team. They’ve tasted success and know what it’s like so why would any of them want to give that up?”
Du Plessis said he was grateful to be given another opportunity at this late stage of his career – he is 37-years-old – to have another crack at Super Rugby.
“I never expected to be here (at the Lions); it’s a miracle,” said Du Plessis.
“I still have an opportunity to play and I am so grateful for that.
As nice as France is, it’s nice to train in the sunshine, and have an opportunity to play in South Africa again, my country.
“I know we have load shedding and the traffic lights don’t work, and I know the coal is wet, but it’s my wet coal, it’s my country, it’s my load shedding. These are the stadiums I like and where I grew up playing my rugby. It’s lekker being back home.
“I’m grateful to the Lions for trusting me and giving me this opportunity. I know playing Super Rugby again is not going to be a Sunday picnic, and it’s all daunting right now, but I’m going to do everything in my power to repay the faith the Lions have shown in me.”
Du Plessis added that he was looking forward to the challenges of a four-week Super Rugby tour again and going to Argentina to face the Jaguares. “Super Rrugby is really tough; there are world-class players you’re up against every week, unlike in Europe. It’s a block of 16 weeks where you have to fire on all cylinders, where you play rugby at 100km/* and face five big teams on successive weekends. In Europe, after 16 weeks you’re not even into a third of your campaign,” Du Plessis said.
“Thank goodness though for the pre-season (what we’re in right now), running around until our tongues are on the ground, because come February you want to be sharp and be on top of your game against high quality opposition. I’m even looking forward to that four-week tour again.”