Boks: Du Toit a ‘secret’ weapon

2015-08-18 11:45
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Pieter-Steph du Toit may be like a caged animal gleefully set free at the World Cup.

That could simultaneously make him a dangerous, unknown factor of sorts to some of South Africa’s opponents at the looming tournament.

The versatile young Sharks forward, supposedly Western Province/Stormers-bound from next season although this is yet to be officially confirmed, looked like a man on a mission even in the relatively short stint he got on the park as the Springboks finally earned a first Test victory this year against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

But in those 16 very assertive, educative minutes as he replaced starter Willem Alberts at blindside flank, Du Toit sent powerful signals to Heyneke Meyer - if the national coach even sought them? - that he probably deserves to be on the plane among the 31-strong RWC squad.

Certainly it was confirmation of his versatility, at the very least, given that most of his first-class yards thus far have come in the second row.

Unsurprisingly, sections of the Afrikaans press, in particular, are suggesting with pretty good reason that he will develop into a utility equivalent of Danie Rossouw, that consummate professional and unflagging workhorse who served the country in various positions between Nos 4-8 between 2003 and 2011 (including at three World Cups).

If anything, the athletic Du Toit - who at two metres and 115kg is roughly Rossouw’s physical match - may turn into a more explosive version of the now-retired former Loftus favourite.

While Alberts made a credible comeback from recent injury against the Pumas and will almost certainly also get the RWC nod given his known value in often heavy “northern” conditions, his replacement actually appeared to take things up a gear on the blindside in Buenos Aires.

Du Toit carried the ball lustily a couple of times and generally rampaged around the turf with gusto and notable stealth – encouraging from a man who saw so much of 2014 and 2015 drastically curtailed by serious knee injuries.

In short, he looked like someone liberated at last after bleak periods of personal mishap that are hopefully now behind him.

It also appeared confirmation of what many coaches and pundits were already quite sure of: that the young forward, who turns 23 on Thursday, is one of those very rare talents who pop up every now and then.

The Boks’ southern hemisphere foes are probably more aware of what Du Toit offers than their bigger rivals above the equator, even given his most unfortunate, lengthy absences from the game.

That is because, when fit, he has already graced Super Rugby with some aplomb and he is well remembered in the powerhouse nation of New Zealand, for instance, for his role in the Baby Boks’ winning the IRB Junior World Championship final against them at Newlands back in 2012.

Du Toit was already a highly-touted lock then, but coach Dawie Theron also saw his potential on the side of the scrum and fielded him at No 7 - with rousing success - in that showpiece, which SA won 22-16 with Paul Willemse and Ruan Botha the second-row firm.

The senior Boks’ lock stocks look pretty formidable again in the weeks leading up to RWC 2015, with such customers as Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield, Lood de Jager and Flip van der Merwe available to the cause.

But the extra strings to Du Toit’s bow make him an attractive squad presence, and Buenos Aires may just have confirmed his rights to a passage.

The blond competitor is so highly rated by some sections of South Africa’s rugby intelligentsia that Mark Andrews, the World Cup-winning lock and famously temporary No 8 of 1995, was moved to say when he looked a tournament doubt earlier this year: “Our chances of winning (the cup) will go down perhaps 10 percent if he is ruled out.”

Happily, Du Toit looks firmly in the mix now from a well-being point of view.

Even if he is deployed primarily as an impact factor off the bench in bigger Bok assignments during the September-October jamboree, the player simply looks too good to be left at home.

Through no fault of his own, Du Toit has flown largely beneath the international radar for some time. That may contain certain advantages pretty shortly ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  rwc 2015  |  pieter-steph du toit  |  rugby

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