Early in his career, Bismarck du Plessis never dreamt he would wear a Vodacom Bulls jersey and call Loftus Versfeld home. Now, the big man with the even bigger heart cannot see himself anywhere else. A farmer in his core, Du Plessis believes he’s now sowing the seeds of possibly his greatest contribution to the game he’s served so well – to push the next generation to greatness.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for this coming season. I get goosebumps thinking about it. I’ve had my time. If I can now help the younger players around me, then I believe I’m doing my job at the Vodacom Bulls,” Du Plessis said on Saturday as he joined over 200 dads and their sons at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout at Loftus Versfeld.
The 38-year-old was there with his six-year-old twin boys – Francois and Gideon – as well as brother Jannie’s six-year-old son, Frans Andreas. He joined the likes of Schalk Brits, Cornal Hendricks, Lizo Gqoboka and Morné Steyn and their sons as they took their place in the 80 tents dotted around one of the most iconic rugby fields in world rugby and joined the other dads in their desire to be the fathers their boys need them to be.
And as he looks ahead to this coming Vodacom United Rugby Championship season, there is a definite sense of a “fatherly” role Du Plessis is taking on in this team.
“I’m not competing with the youngsters. I’m here to help them every single day to get better. There are so many things in this Vodacom Bulls team that remind me of my early career as a young player. Seeing young players develop and become Springboks is so rewarding. When Kurt-Lee Arendse became a Springbok, I phoned his mom and told her how proud I was of him, but also how proud I was of her. This is what it’s about. To get those young players like Canan Moodie and help them to play 100 Tests for the Springboks. The first time I saw Canan training I phoned JP Pietersen and said I’ve just seen a young player who reminds me of you. And there Canan goes and becomes a Springbok. JP didn’t even have rugby boots when he was selected for the Sharks for the first time. I see so many similarities of my time then and this time now, and it makes me excited. What John Smit and Johan Ackermann put into me when I was younger is what I want to be for these young players. It’s a very personal thing for me. I am going into this season to be as fit and strong as I can be to be able to push those young players to be better.”
Du Plessis’ new rugby focus at this late stage of his career definitely lines up with the focus of every single dad who was there with him at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout on Saturday – to lead the next generation, and to be better men for them.
“You try to be the dad that you had. I was fortunate to have had a dad that always gave more than what he ever expected back. For me, that’s massive.”
As he talks, his sons are running around a Loftus Versfeld field that is now definitely their favourite rugby home.
“I never thought I’d end up calling Loftus Versfeld home. My boys are now 100% Vodacom Bulls supporters. They even had their own Vodacom Bulls birthday party the other day. This is what rugby is all about – events like this. We’re here as dads to catch these boys and build into them before they have to one day make their own decisions.”
Photo: Bismarck du Plessis with his twin sons Francois and Gideon and his brother Jannie’s son Frans Andreas at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.