Jake White insists Bismarck du Plessis will have an on-field role to play at the Bulls that is just as important as the mentorship and experience he can offer off the field.
The 2007 World Cup-winning hooker, who has a total of 79 Tests to his name, is set to join the Bulls following a six-year stint at French club Montpellier.
Du Plessis is now 37 years old, and may well have opted to hang up his boots if the Bulls hadn’t come calling.
Chatting to the media ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final, White said there was good reason he had recruited the veteran hooker.
“Bismarck’s not going to be happy just standing on the sideline being like an assistant coach. But to the same point – when he’s on the field, he’s going to be helping guys like Mornay Smith, who is a relatively young tighthead. He’s going to be helping Gerhard Steenekamp and Simphiwe Matanzima, who are relatively young looseheads.
“In terms of the art of scrumming and the art of understanding what kind of pressure situations you are in on the field. I don’t want to underestimate the value of a guy like that who has all that experience and can share it on field during pressure situations with players who’ve never, ever been in those situations.
“Then, there are some incredible hookers here. We’ve got a guy like Johan Grobbelaar, who is now with the national set-up. There’s Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Then I’ve just basically jump-started Joe van Zyl above Schalk Erasmus for this weekend. Which means I’ve got confidence in the hookers we have.
“I’ve chatted to the youngsters. I’ve chatted to them about the fact that they don’t need to read into anything. We need two really good teams next year because the Currie Cup and the United Rugby Championship are being played together. We are very excited about having Bismarck here.
“I’ve been coaching in Europe and we need that kind of player to play in European conditions. It’s a completely different game. We’re playing in Connacht, which is on the west coast of Ireland. It’s terrible weather. It’s cold, wet and it’s going to be one of those real tough games in the mud. And a guy like Bismarck, Jacques du Plessis and those sort of guys are the ones you need on the field during those games.”
White wouldn’t be drawn into speculating whether he felt Du Plessis could perhaps still catch the eye of the Springbok selectors, but said there was no doubt the Bulls would benefit from the two-year deal the experienced former World Cup-winning hooker had signed.
“It’s not for me to decide how the national selectors operate. I can only get the Bulls as strong as I can or as I’m allowed to. I’m just very thankful to get a guy like that with that experience, as I mentioned again, with the tight forwards we have. Ruan Nortje, Janko Swanepoel and Sintu Manjezi are all relatively young tight forwards.
“So, to have an experienced guy like that in the middle is going to be gold to us going forward.”