Cape Town – Pieter-Steph du Toit will keep his tenure of the Springbok No 5 jersey for Saturday’s Castle Rugby Championship showdown with the All Blacks at Albany.
That is the prediction of World Cup 1995-winning lock and current SuperSport pundit Kobus Wiese … although he adds the swift caveat that he is “happy it is not me” making the call between incumbent Du Toit and Franco Mostert for that berth in the second row.
You could argue that Wiese is one of the most suitable, impartial analysts in assessing the respective qualities of the two: he played his provincial rugby for Transvaal (now the Lions, Mostert’s franchise), but was born and educated in the Western Cape, in line with the upbringing of Stormers/WP favourite Du Toit.
He says Bok coach Allister Coetzee is spoilt for choice and it is a case of “six of one, half a dozen of the other” in trying to determine which man is most suitable to start against the world champions.
In a sense, Coetzee has painted himself into a corner – without too much culpability on his part – after his decision, fairly widely viewed as understandable, to give the ever-yeoman Mostert a rest against Australia last Saturday after his heavy workload both for the Lions in Super Rugby 2017 and the Test season thus far.
But, fully exploiting his opportunity for a recall after several sharp showings off the bench, Du Toit then went and played a blinder in Perth, earning the unofficial Bok player-of-the-match mantle in the eyes of many South African critics.
“It’s become one of those really difficult issues for Allister,” Wiese told Sport24 on Tuesday. “Until last Saturday, Franco was the guy in the saddle and playing superbly … remember that he was basically forced to take a rest; it wasn’t his choice.
“But yes, Pieter-Steph was probably the best Springbok against the Aussies; both guys are giving 110 percent to the national team this season.
“He (Du Toit) has lifted his game a great deal again; he is very direct, doesn’t shy away, and has been carrying the ball superbly – while also setting it up well for others to take it (onward).
“I am relieved not to be in Allister’s shoes over this selection, though my guess is it may come down to the current man (Du Toit) just being too hard to cast aside after last week, and Franco taking a spot on the bench.”
Wiese, a true behemoth of the lock trade himself, also feels that the superior bulk of Du Toit (almost 120kg, to Mostert’s slightly more mobile weight, if you like, of about 110kg) could be considered useful for the showdown with the All Blacks.
“That may be a factor (in the Bok thinking) … this should be a really physical game. We have to get in their faces, to force mistakes, and must dominate at the set-pieces and breakdowns if possible.
“The one thing we mustn’t repeat from the Wallaby game is kicking away ball to such a wasteful extent; the New Zealanders can punish you badly if you do that.”
He says there is an outside chance that, with Jaco Kriel having been sidelined by injury, Du Toit could yet be accommodated in the same starting XV as the tigerish Mostert – by grabbing the No 7 vacancy.
The 25-year-old, versatile character has begun two of his 26 Test appearances as the blindside flanker, albeit with modest success thus far, at best: they came in respective defeats to Japan at Brighton (World Cup 2015) and later England at Twickenham (2016) when scrumhalf Ben Youngs damagingly gave him the slip defensively a couple of times.
But those events don’t mean that Wiese considers him completely spent as an international loose-forward candidate.
“It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to look at him again there; it is an option for this Test.
“He is a robust and uncompromising type of No 7, in the mould of an Andre Venter or Theuns Stofberg … if you field him there, you must just make sure it is in exactly the right loosie combination.”
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