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