By: Brenden Nel – SuperSport
According to the supersport.com website, Du Plessis, who has faced a torrid week after being incorrectly red-carded by French referee Romain Poite in Auckland last weekend, is set to be on the bench when the Boks resume their chase for the title next week.
The hooker’s red card was later expunged by the International Rugby Board as it was incorrect, but it hardly helped as the Boks had to play with 14 men for almost 50 minutes of the game, losing 29-15 in the process.
But unless coach Heyneke Meyer has changed his mind, Du Plessis is unlikely to start against the Wallabies as he has already stated that Adriaan Strauss would move back to the No 2 spot when the Boks get home.
Meyer is blessed to have two international class hookers in his side, and had already spoken to both players before they left for New Zealand, deciding that Du Plessis would start both games with Strauss returning in Cape Town.
It is likely then that Du Plessis will be back to face the All Blacks at Ellis Park a week later.
It is also unlikely that Meyer – a firm believer in continuity – would have changed his decision because of the cards that Du Plessis received in Auckland.
It is a tough juggling act for Meyer – Du Plessis is rightly rated as the best hooker in the world, but Strauss is having an exceptional season and his leadership abilities also mean a lot to the side, as well as his ball-carrying abilities.
Still, Du Plessis was impressive over the ball in both matches and the Boks may well think about a role for him that is a bit more encompassing than just off the bench.
The Boks are set to make another change for the game in Cape Town, with Fourie du Preez also likely to return to the starting line-up at the expense of Ruan Pienaar.
Pienaar’s service suffered in Auckland as he and his ball-carriers failed on a number of occasions to link up, meaning spilled passes and general tardiness in play.
But given Du Preez’ performance in Johannesburg, he is likely to be an easy choice for Meyer, who will want to use him as much as possible in the next two matches to give the Boks a decent chance of claiming the Rugby Championship.
The jury is still out on which lock combination is better, but the Boks may well revert back to Juandre Kruger ahead of Flip van der Merwe for the next clash, especially with Australian captain James Horwill likely to be back in the starting line-up.
At the back, it is unlikely that there will be any other changes, with the Boks likely to opt for continuity in the backline as well.