Blindside flank: Who can give Pieter-Steph a run for his money?

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published May 5, 2020

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WITH Super Rugby almost at the halfway mark and suspended due to the coronavirus, it’s an ideal time to look at the Springboks’ locally based options in each position for new head coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus ahead of the planned July Tests against Scotland and Georgia.

We will assess the leading players this season at the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, and make our final selection. Let’s look at blindside flank

Bulls: Josh Strauss

The former Scotland international is not eligible for the Boks, but has been playing regularly for the three-time Super Rugby champions.

Strauss has been the workhorse that he was expected to be, especially on defence, where he has made 46 tackles in six matches.

He was always a willing ball-carrier when he captained the Lions before, and that has been the case as well at the Bulls. The 33-year-old has carried the ball 36 times and recorded five tackle-busts, but hasn’t been able to spark his team’s attack, with just five offloads in 436 minutes.

Strauss is a grinder who won’t let any team down, but he doesn’t quite have that same spark that he possessed when at the Lions before his move to Scotland.

Lions: Vincent Tshituka

The bustling 21-year-old, who was born in the DRC, is a big man at 1.95m and has put his size to good use.

He is strong ball-carrier who has made 28 runs in four matches, and has also made 29 tackles.

But Tshituka’s season was halted by an ankle injury against the Waratahs, so the enforced break due to the coronavirus gives him a chance to recover.

He will hope to shore up his defence, having missed five tackles.

Lions loose forward Vincent Tshituka. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Sharks: Tyler Paul

The former Southern Kings utility forward has earned his No 7 jersey at the Sharks through a number of fine performances. He does the dirty work that allows the likes of loose-forward mates Sikhumbuzo Notshe and James Venter to roam around and do the fancy stuff.

Paul hits rucks, wins his lineouts, looks after the ruck fringes and adds his considerable 1.94m, 110kg frame to the scrum.

He is also the guy who trucks it up on the inside channels, which has seen him make 41 runs in six matches.

Stormers: Pieter-Steph du Toit

You would think after his superlative display at the 2019 Rugby World Cup that Du Toit couldn’t get better in 2020. He is, after all, the World Player of the Year.

But the man from Riebeek-Kasteel has again led the charge for the Stormers, playing a big part in their four-match winning start.

His work-rate is still incredible on attack and defence, with 30 carries in five matches, with four tackle-busts - despite operating at close quarters most of the time.

His 66 tackles places him in the top 10 of blindside flanks in Super Rugby this season, but he won’t be happy about his 14 missed tackles.

Du Toit will hope to recover from his leg injury in time for the resumption of the tournament after the coronavirus break.

VERDICT: Paul is a workmanlike player who is a consistent performer, but Du Toit is the best in the world.

Statistics: super.rugby and foxsports.com.au

@ashfakmohamed

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