Should they both play on Saturday against the Crusaders, Cell C Sharks front rowers Jannie du Plessis and Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira will join a rare club of players who have achieved 100 Vodacom Super Rugby caps for one team.
With hooker Bismarck du Plessis having already achieved the feat, the Cell C Sharks front row must list as one of the most experienced of all time in the competition. They boast a combined total of 311 Super Rugby caps and at Springbok level have accumulated 161 between them (all three have 50+ caps at international level).
For Jannie du Plessis, it is a dream come true, having grown up supporting the Cell C Sharks.
“I’m immensely proud to be playing my 100th game for the Cell C Sharks on the weekend,” he admits. “Accumulating these caps means having shared my life with very good rugby players and this achievement is probably one of the things I am proudest of in my rugby career.
“Thinking of guys like Jacques Botes, Johann Muller, BJ Botha and Stefan Terblanche, these are people who have had a massive impact on my life and the memories I have shared with them are incredible.”
His love of the Cell C Sharks and Durban started as a young boy.
“When we were little, we would come to Durban to watch the Easter Club Championships, when all of the top clubs from all over the country would play here and it was massive in those days,” he explains. “We would drive down, I would watch rugby at Kings Park as a little boy and thought it would be incredible to play here. So I’ve liked the Sharks ever since I was a little boy.”
Jannie played in 26 games for the Cheetahs over two seasons before being lured to Durban (he actually has a current total of 125 Vodacom Super Rugby appearances to his name), and the opportunity to play with his brother Bismarck would have been a big motivating factor.
“Playing together with my brother is like winning the lottery,” he admits.
“We’ve had some great family times because when we’ve played together, the whole family has been able to come down and enjoy the games. When we won the 2008 Absa Currie Cup in Durban, my dad was in the stands when he was still healthy. I can’t explain in words what that means to me. That will probably endure as the standout memory of my time with The Sharks.”
Turning his attention to Saturday’s clash with the Crusaders, many of the team would never have experienced Christchurch before, given that it has been four years since the teams met here last.
“The last time we were here was in 2010, [the teams met in Twickenham to play in the 2011 pool game following the earthquake, and met again during the play-offs, with that match taking place in Nelson], so this is the first time we are playing in Christchurch since the earthquake.
“The Crusaders are a very efficient machine and they’ve won the competition so many times because they’re a brilliant side. Over the past few weeks, they have shown they’re on the up, but we did things right against the Brumbies last week and we earned enough opportunities to win the game.
“The big challenge for us is to do the same on the weekend and play well enough to win the game. At the end of the day, it’s four lines, a grass pitch, 15 guys on either side playing to the same set of rules and we if we want to compete against them, we’re going to have to play well, tackle well, run hard and get our set-piece right.
“It’s a massive challenge, but one we’re really looking forward to.”