Springbok coach Jake White admitted that Bismarck du Plessis’ outstanding performance for the Sharks at the weekend influenced his decision to select him as the replacement for Pierre Spies.
The Sharks hooker failed to land a spot in the original 30-man World Cup squad, but following Spies’ withdrawal as a result of the detection of blood clots on his lungs, De Plessis beat off the challenge of Perdrie Wannenburg and Jacques Cronje for the vacancy.
Du Plessis was outstanding against the Bulls on Saturday, blending pace and power to bag a brace, and excelling in the set phases and general play.
“He put his hand up, for sure,” White told The Mercury. “Obviously it is going to impress the selectors when a fringe player has a stormer like that, scoring two good tries.”
Du Plessis’ omission from the squad elicited some criticism given that he had impressed in his limited game time on the Australian leg of the Tri-Nations. White however explained the rationale behind the decision, conceding that it was an extremely difficult call to make.
“Bismarck was very unlucky not to make the original 30 because in the end we decided to go with six loose forwards and two hookers. The thinking was that a guy like BJ Botha, who has played hooker at SA U21 level, could do a job for us if on a Friday evening we suddenly found ourselves with an injury to a hooker,” White explained.
“But when we got together now and discussed it further, we decided not to carry the risk of, for instance, John [Smit] pulling out of a game at a late stage, leaving us short of a quality hooker for a match. We could not play against England with a suspect hooker if John got hurt in the captain’s practice.”
Sharks coach John Plumtree was elated at the news of Du Plessis call-up to the Springboks, but made no secret of the fact it was a huge blow ahead of their clash with Free State on Saturday.
“We are thrilled for Bismarck, obviously, but it is a big loss for the Sharks, especially in the week of such a big match for us,” Plumtree said.
“Bismarck is such a strong ball carrier and defender, and is powerful in the set pieces, so yes, it is a blow to lose him. Having said that, Skipper Badenhorst is a tough customer and we are lucky to have him.”
Badenhorst however will soon be in France for the World Cup, representing Namibia, as will prop Kees Lensing, further compounding Plumtree’s troubles.