Bismarck du Plessis retains Springboks ambitions

Bismarck du Plessis has not played for South Africa since Rugby World Cup 2015, at which tournament the All Blacks gave him a standing ovation after defeating the Springboks in the semifinals at Twickenham. Steve Bardens - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Bismarck du Plessis still harbours hope of playing for South Africa as he continues to impress for Montpellier in France's Top 14, claiming his desire to wear the Springboks jersey remains strong.

Speaking exclusively to KweséESPN in the south of France, du Plessis says he still has the passion to represent his country despite playing the last of his 79 Tests in the third-place play-off at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

Du Plessis was called into the Boks squad by new coach Rassie Erasmus for the June international series against England, along with clubmate Francois Steyn, but both had to pull out with injury.

"I still have a real desire to play for the Springboks," Du Plessis told KweséESPN.

"I put my heart into playing for the national team and that remains my ambition. I have always given everything I have for the national team and if I get the chance again, that will not change.

"It is definitely something I want to do and hopefully that chance comes again."

Erasmus has been seeking an experienced hooker for his squad to act as both player on the pitch and a mentor off it for the likes of Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi and Akker van der Merwe.

The role has been filled by Schalk Brits, after Du Plessis was ruled out of the England series, despite the fact that he announced his retirement from the game in May.

Marx, the reigning South African Rugby Player of the Year, is the undisputed No. 1 hooker in the country at present, and Du Plessis is full of praise for what would be his main rival for the Springboks jersey.

"When I first met Malcolm, I think in 2013, he was a young guy them making his way, but you could see immediately he had great ability," Du Plessis said. "He has developed into a top-class player and a great player for the Springboks.

"I am proud to say he is a South African. When you watch his performances from over here [France], you see the impact he has on games. He is fantastic."

Du Plessis says he has been impressed with the Boks this season, and he believes that Erasmus has them on the right track ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year.

"Rassie is a very good coach," he said.

"I have been coached by him before.

"They certainly look organised and they are playing some good rugby. Rassie knows what it takes to get wins and he will be working hard on what he needs to do. There are certainly a lot of positive signs."

Du Plessis made his Boks debut against Australia in Sydney in 2007, and months later he was a Rugby World Cup winner as South Africa lifted the trophy in France.

He is regarded as not only a fine scrummager but also a powerful runner with the ball in hand, with his ability to hold off defenders marking him as a stand-out performer on the field.

In the early part of his international career, he played as a back-up to Boks captain John Smit, with 12 of his first 14 caps coming off the bench, before a switch to prop by the latter in 2008 accommodated Du Plessis in the starting XV.

He is one of 11 South Africans currently playing for Montpellier, including brother Jannie, a former Boks prop, and he helped the team into the Top 14 final last season, when they were surprise 29-13 losers to Castres.