37-year-old rugby players, as evergreen as they may be, aren’t exactly known for totally revamping their game.
Nor, one would argue, should they be doing so at the twilight of their careers.
But if there’s one thing a self-made man (at least in the sport’s terms) in Jannie du Plessis wants to do at the Lions next season it’s emulate the influence of Schalk Brits at the Bulls earlier this year.
“He always looked after himself and was always in great shape. I never doubted his ability and he certainly proved it in 2019. That’s really something I want to emulate,” the decorated former Springbok prop said on Thursday.
“Schalk is a real asset to every team, he added value. That’s what I’d love to do for this team. I want to work for them, win their respect through my actions on the field. I enjoyed my time in France (at Montepellier), but it’s mentally nice to have new challenge.”
The fickle South African rugby public remains a tad suspicious on the true worth of experienced players such as Du Plessis, generally questioning their fitness and real motivation to bleed for a team’s cause.
Thankfully, Brits did a lot to shed that perception, at times even being considered South Africa’s best hooker in Super Rugby last season.
Given how fit Du Plessis has stayed, don’t bet on the Lions not picking the fruits.
In fact, the front-row powerhouse seems to be adopting the view that he’s actually starting from the bottom again at Ellis Park.
He’s not going to walk in to any starting XV without holding the likes of promising rookies such as Carlu Sadie at bay.
That also extends to his mentoring role in the setup, specifically with regards to some coaching inputs.
“I’m not talking a lot. The Lions are lighting a fire in me. When I feel like I can add value, or teach, I will definitely try to do it. But nothing was said to me regarding a teaching role,” said Du Plessis.
“They don’t need advice from me. The recipe they follow doesn’t need changing.”