Boks apply grey matter
July 11, 2007

The Springboks are literally taking an old-school approach to combatting the All Blacks' most potent rugby weapon this year -- their scrum.

Historians worldwide will be poring over their record books after the Springboks unveiled a front row trio who attended the same secondary school.

Brothers Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and prop CJ van der Linde all hail from Bloemfontein's Grey College. Not only that, halfback Ruan Pienaar and reserve lock Gerrie Britz also attended the famous rugby stronghold.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who will make his starting debut against New Zealand at Jade Stadium on Saturday, wasn't surprised at the Grey College influence.

"Rugby's almost second nature there," he said.

"I suppose this is a very good thing for the school and a good marketing tool."

Born in Bethlehem -- in South Africa's Free State province -- Du Plessis only played alongside Pienaar at college level.

The pair also teamed up at Free State University, where du Plessis packed down alongside older brother Jannie briefly in 2004.

Since then the siblings hadn't united on the field until Bismarck made his debut off the bench in last Saturday's loss to Australia at Sydney.

"It's a big privilege just playing with my brother and spending time with him. We know each other very well," he said.

"I'd have to say it's difficult to create a combination in a week's time. We haven't spent much time scrummaging and we didn't have the greatest scrum machine.

"But we're looking forward to a challenge."

The scrum has been a dominant in all five All Blacks tests this year and du Plessis didn't expect any let-up on Saturday, even though the hosts have named Keven Mealamu to start in place of scrummaging powerhouse hooker Anton Oliver.

"I wouldn't say Anton's a better scrummager than Keven, they are both players I looked up to when I was in high school," du Plessis said.

"They're very clever scrummagers but we can also step up to the platform. We're all playing for World Cup positions and what better place to claim a World Cup spot than against the most dominant scrum of the last 4-5 years."

One of the rising stars of the South African game, du Plessis' progress was halted in this year's Super 14 as he was largely a reserve at the Sharks behind Springboks captain John Smit.

That may well change next year with Smit to join French club Clermont.

Du Plessis' unusual christian name comes from his maternal grandfather of German extraction, Bismark Fick.

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