Rassie backs Pi­eter-Steph

The Mercury - - SPORT - ME­DIA PART­NER OF THE SHARKS Jacques van der Westhuyzen

SPRING­BOK coach Rassie Eras­mus has backed Pi­eter-Steph du Toit to shine at blind­side flank when his team take on Eng­land in the sec­ond of three Tests to­mor­row.

Du Toit, who played off the bench last week­end in Jo­han­nes­burg and who started at lock when he cap­tained the Boks in Wash­ing­ton DC two weeks ago, takes the place of Jean-Luc du Preez in one of two changes to the team that won 42-39 last Satur­day. The other change comes at tight­head prop where Frans Mal­herbe re­places the “punch­drunk” Wilco Louw.

Eras­mus said the 25-yearold Du Toit, who is most com­fort­able at lock, could ful­fil a sim­i­lar role to that of his for­mer Bok team­mate of the late 1990s and early 2000s, An­dre Ven­ter.

Ven­ter tipped the scales at 109kg and stood 1.95m tall in his play­ing days, while Du Toit is a lit­tle big­ger over­all at 2m tall and 120kg. And while Ven­ter was more a blind­side flank that oc­ca­sion­ally played lock, Du Toit is a lock that is now be­ing used as a flank.

“Pi­eter-Steph is al­ways go­ing to be close to the start­ing team,” said Eras­mus. “We’re lucky to have a guy like him... peo­ple want to cat­e­gorise some­body as some­thing spe­cific, but it’s won­der­ful that he is in the An­dre Ven­ter mould.

“Go­ing for­ward we’ll use him in both po­si­tions. I don’t think he’ll settle at blind­side, but for this game we’re us­ing him there and later he might move back to lock, be­cause we have two loosies on the bench (Du Preez and Sikhum­buzo Not­she).”

Du Toit has per­formed well in the No 7 jersey in re­cent times, in­clud­ing for the Storm­ers, but a few sea­sons ago he was found out, first by Ja­pan at the 2015 World Cup, and then by Eng­land’s scrumhalf, Ben Youngs, who ex­ploited Du Toit’s lack of pace and ex­per­tise of the po­si­tion in a Test at the end of 2016. The Bok coaches then were Heyneke Meyer and Al­lis­ter Coet­zee re­spec­tively, and to­mor­row Youngs will know he has had Du Toit’s num­ber be­fore.

Eras­mus though doesn’t seem too con­cerned. “Youngs is a tough guy to con­tain and stop any­way,” said the Bok coach about the chal­lenge await­ing Du Toit on de­fence. “Pi­eter-Steph has grown as a player since that game in 2016, and Youngs will be a threat who­ever is at No 7. Over­all, we have to be bet­ter de­fen­sively, we need to step it up... also on Siya’s (Kolisi) side.”

Mal­herbe re­turns to the team after be­ing side­lined for months with in­juries, but Eras­mus con­ceded that the Storm­ers man won’t last the full 80 min­utes. Re­cently con­verted Thomas du Toit is set to take over in the No 3 jersey, a player Eras­mus feels has a bright fu­ture ahead of him. The Sharks young­ster was im­pres­sive off the bench at El­lis Park last week after only re­cently swap­ping from be­ing a loose­head to a tight­head prop.

The big change on the bench sees Jesse Kriel come into the match­day squad for El­ton Jan­tjies, leav­ing the Boks with­out a recog­nised fly­half among the re­place­ments. SPRING­BOKS: Re­place­ments:

Eng­land beef pack, see Page 23

PIC­TURE: MATTHIAS SCHRADER, AP

Yuri Gazin­sky cel­e­brates with team­mates after scor­ing his team’s first goal against Saudi Ara­bia in Moscow yes­ter­day.

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