The recall of Franco van der Merwe to the Bok camp yesterday, coupled with quotes from coach Heyneke Meyer, seem to suggest that Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit won’t be risked for Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider against the All Black at Ellis Park.
Meyer, who has never been shy in his praise for du Toit, apparently sees the 21-year-old as a natural long-term successor to the likes of Victor Matfield and Andries Bekker in the number 5 jersey. That role, of course, comes with a huge amount of responsibility within the Bok game plan, since the 5-lock takes charge of all the line-out calls and it’s with this aim in mind that Meyer and his forward coach, John McFarland, want to spend as much time with the youngster as possible getting him familiar with what is required.
Now, along with many others, I’m sure, I assumed that when Pieter-Steph was called up to the Bok squad a week ago, the intention was to play him. As a player just returned from a long-term injury, my thinking was that the young man needed nothing else as badly as game time, which I hoped he would get with the Boks. Finding that he’s been called up more as a “learning exercise”, thus preventing him from playing for the Sharks, is a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, but one that we need to accept is probably in the Boks’ best interests long-term.
After all, there’s very little doubt that du Toit will go on to have a long and successful test career and will get to play – and beat – the All Blacks many times before he finally hangs up his boots. Meyer’s decision to protect the youngster this weekend and not “throw him to the wolves” is one that, I believe, has been taken with the player and the team’s best interests at heart. Whether I agree with it or not is moot, because I’m not the guy holding the clipboard.
From a Sharks point of view, there is an upside too. We get to see Stephan Lewies develop further in the senior team this weekend and we get a fit, rested and raring-to-go Pieter-Steph du Toit back in time for the Currie Cup business end, starting next week. That’s not all that bad, now is it?Tweet