Veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis says he was about to walk away from rugby before Jake White called him with a last-minute offer to play for the Vodacom Bulls.
Du Plessis recently signed for the Bulls after becoming a free agent when he ran out of contract at French club Montpellier.
He has since been included in the Bulls travelling squad for their four-match tour of Europe, where they will open their Vodacom United Rugby Championship account against Leinster and Connacht (both Ireland), followed by matches against the Cardiff Blues (Wales) and Edinburgh.
Commenting on how his sudden move to the Bulls came about, Du Plessis explained: “It still feels a little bit unreal, to be honest. In my head I’d said goodbye to rugby. But when Jake phoned me and I was sitting on the tractor on my farm, what he said awakened something in me again.”
At 36 years old, Du Plessis is not as physical as he was in his prime and says he had to consult several former Boks, who boost experience of playing into their late thirties, before making a decision on the potential career move to Loftus Versfeld.
“I spoke to a lot of players. Victor Matfield gave me great advice. So did Johann Muller. Stefan Terblanche really changed my mind in terms of what he said to me. Some of the players I spoke to said they were happy to retire because their bodies couldn’t take it anymore. Some of them said the last two years of their careers were the most enjoyable. Others said that if they could still play today they would. I was in the fortunate position where my body was still strong enough.
“It was obviously a difficult decision for me because I gave my heart and soul to the Sharks. But the opportunity was with the Bulls, and the way Jake spoke to me and what he explained to me helped me make that decision.
“It’s a new challenge and a great opportunity to be able to do what I love.”
Touching on his role at the Bulls, Du Plessis hinted that he hoped to be an influential figure on and off the field in terms leadership to the younger squad members.
“This is a young team, and I can already see from the few practices I’ve had with them that there are players here who have great careers going forward. I think I’d tell those youngsters that you must never forget why you started playing rugby. And another thing is for them to understand sacrifice.
“I had a coach who always told us that whenever you say ‘yes’ to one thing you say ‘no’ to something else. With every ‘yes’ comes a consequence, so make sure the decisions you make are more often right than wrong.”
Spotted a legend at Loftus 😏🚨 pic.twitter.com/6Q7UHShJIV
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) September 17, 2021