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Ryan Vrede

Bismarck’s battle to benefit Boks

Bismarck du Plessis carries the ball in the Springboks' Test against England Bismarck du Plessis carries the ball in the Springboks' Test against England

Bismarck du Plessis will become an even more formidable player given the strong competition fellow hooker Adriaan Strauss provides, writes RYAN VREDE. 

Most in the South African rugby fraternity wouldn't have imagined Du Plessis would start his 50th Test for the Springboks on the bench, given his strong performances at the beginning of Heyneke Meyer's tenure.

However, this is the reality the hooker now faces, this after a serious knee injury in the 2012 Castle Rugby Championship opener against Argentina kept him sidelined for close to a year and offered Strauss the opportunity to leapfrog him in the pecking order. Strauss has excelled in his time as the incumbent, delivering consistently impressive performances and establishing himself as Meyer's preferred starter, despite Du Plessis's return to fitness. 

Some have suggested Du Plessis finds himself in the same situation he did when contesting John Smit for the Springbok No 2 shirt. The reality is very different. Then Du Plessis was clearly the better player, thoroughly deserving of a run-on start ahead of his waning skipper. There was no technical or physical aspect of play in which Smit trumped Du Plessis. Indeed there were a few key performance areas where the gulf between the two was significant . 

This isn't the case with the Du Plessis-Strauss tussle. The duo are fairly evenly matched across a range of key performance areas, and the difference between them in others isn't so notable that it gives one a clear edge over the other. Du Plessis boasts superior experience and has a presence in Test matches that Strauss is yet to develop, but certainly isn't incapable of.

We'll learn a lot about Du Plessis's mental constitution in this period. Where life in Smit's shadow demanded more patience and self-control than it did an exhibition of his technical and physical superiority, his cause now will be primarily underpinned by those characteristics. 

This is positive adversity for Du Plessis, and if he embraces the challenge he is sure to evolve into a better player than the already world-class one he is. Du Plessis's challenge will be equally galvanising for Strauss.

There are no losers. Both men benefit, and, most critically, so do the Springboks.  

Photo: Steve Hagg/Gallo Images

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