Durban - Sharks coach Gary Gold expects talented lock Pieter-Steph du Toit to be included in the Springbok squad to face Argentina in the final Rugby Championship clash at King’s Park on Saturday.
The Sharks and Springbok medical teams have together plotted Du Toit’s return to action following his knee ligament injury, and surgery, back in March. Du Toit, who was part of the Springbok training squad ahead of the All Black Test late last month, returned to the Sharks last week and played the full second half of Friday night’s friendly at Woodburn Stadium without any discomfort.
“Pieter-Steph will be involved with the Boks in the Test this weekend,” said Gold, “and then we will just take it from there. We will have to see whether he then again becomes available to us or will stay with the Springboks.”
Du Toit, along with six other Springboks returning from injury, will be medically assessed in Durban this morning ahead of coach Heyneke Meyer settling on his 23-man squad to face the Pumas on Saturday evening. The team will be named on Wednesday.
The Springboks end their Rugby World Cup preparations with a friendly international against the Pumas in Buenos Aires on August 15. The RWC in England runs from September 18 to October 31.
Du Toit is certainly part of Heyneke Meyer’s World Cup plans but it remains to be seen whether he and Test captain Jean de Villiers are afforded more game time at Currie Cup level in the weeks ahead or are kept in cotton wool along with the other Springboks.
What is certain is that Gold will be without Du Toit for the Currie Cup opener against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday night.
Gold, reflecting on the Sharks’ 34-29 Currie Cup friendly win over the Golden Lions on Friday night, said he was satisfied with the outcome.
“We did make a lot of mistakes but we did try and play positive rugby. We expected the guys to be rusty in their first game but I was pleased with the way the players stuck in the fight, especially after being 21-12 down at half-time.
“It is always good to come away with a win, even in a game like that, and I was happy with the intensity we showed in the second half. There were a lot of young players involved and number of them put up their hands.”
He said the Sharks had looked dangerous when they took the ball through the phases, “but when we lost our shape we looked clueless”.
“Time in the middle will help but it is a balancing act. We have 10 Currie Cup weeks on the bounce without any byes before the play-offs and we did not want to risk injury by playing four or five friendlies. It might work against us being slightly underdone but I hope we get the early results and it works in our favour.”
He said that the 33 players involved on Friday were competing for positions - “the skill will be choosing the best team from them”.
He said there had been no fresh injuries and the only casualty on the night was hooker Monde Hadebe who went down with cramp.
“The Lions are the Currie Cup favourites and they out-scrummed us in the first half. We have work to do there. We also lost a number of the collisions at the breakdown and that is a concern.”
But Gold said he was happy with the commitment of the second half when the Sharks fought back to secure the win.
Promising SA Under-20 prop Thomas du Toit played a prominent role in the improved forward effort in the second half. He was used by the Baby Boks at the World Cup in Italy in June as a tighthead but Gold said his switch from loosehead had been a Sharks’ initiative.
“We made the decision to develop Thomas du Toit on the tighthead before he went away with the SA Under-20 squad. He played in that position at Woodburn and he was outstanding - he also played on the loosehead and did well there too. He had a very good all-round game,” said Gold.