Pieter-Steph du Toit (Gallo Images)
Newcastle - Assuming all goes to plan beforehand,
Pieter-Steph du Toit looks almost certain to be a beneficiary of the
Springboks’ swift turnaround to their final World Cup Pool B match against the
United States in London on Wednesday.
Reading between the lines, the 23-year-old is highly likely
to wear his favoured No 5 jersey for the first time at the outset of a Test
match against the minnows, just four days after Saturday’s imminent battle with
Scotland at St James’ Park here.
Coach Heyneke Meyer said at a press briefing earlier this
week that he rather hoped Du Toit, who can cover both lock and blindside flank
in his current substitute’s capacity, would not necessarily have to serve too
much time against the Scots.
“We will need fresh locks,” he said, no doubt referring to
the rare challenge of preparing another Bok XV for the task against the USA so
soon after the latest fixture.
Even if they lose against the Scots for a demoralising
second RWC defeat, South Africa would probably still remain mathematically in
the running – albeit very precariously – for a place in the knockout phase and
desperately target a full house of five log points against the United States.
Ideally, though, the Boks will instead have stabilised a
great deal by seeing off the Scottish challenge here and be in a more
comfortable position to “rotate” certain key troops – especially in the
energy-sapping tight five – for the rapid next assignment.
Here Du Toit enters the picture strongly as the Boks will
not wish to over-burden incumbent locks Eben Etzebeth (especially) and Lood de
Jager, the scheduled starters against Scotland.
But their second-row options are a bit stretched given the
hamstring injury afflicting their veteran lineout master Victor Matfield.
A time frame on his return is not known from the Bok camp,
although it was reasonably encouraging to see him doing running laps alone and
without visible awkwardness around the perimeter of the pitch at Friday’s
captain’s training session for the team tacking Scotland.
A 38-year-old recovering from a niggle is not the most
straightforward of businesses, so the Boks will want to be sure he is fine
before pitching him back into the fray; it has been a recurring issue for him.
A combination of Du Toit and De Jager, with the adaptable
last-named player switching to No 4, seems a fair bet at lock for Wednesday,
especially if the Boks enter the game under only limited pressure.
The Stormers-bound Du Toit is likeliest to get a bit of
game-time in his favoured position against Scotland, given that fellow-sub
Willem Alberts covers No 7, but keep in mind that the “Bone Collector” is on a
major fitness tightrope himself, and if he was sent on early here and could not
go the distance, Du Toit might find himself back on the side of the scrum.
Instead, Meyer will be hoping the young prospect has plenty
of gas in the tank for the US match.
The coach may require it at lock ...
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Rob is attending the Bok pool phase of RWC 2015
to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.