JOHANNESBURG – Number four lock, number five lock, blindside flank, and now captain of the Springboks. Pieter-Steph du Toit wears many different hats, but the colours are always the same - green and gold.
Du Toit will become South Africa’s 60th Test skipper on Saturday when he leads a young and mainly inexperienced Bok team against Wales in the unfamiliar surroundings of the RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.
It will be the Boks’ first Test of the year but there will be plenty of other firsts, too: New coach Rassie Erasmus and his management team’s first Test; 13 players in Washington will taste Test rugby for the first time; and for Du Toit, it will be first time running out in front as national team captain.
And, of course, next week will see Siya Kolisi run out as Bok skipper, also for the first time.
The announcement of Kolisi as team leader of the Boks for the three-Test England series has almost overshadowed the appointment of Du Toit as captain for the Wales game.
Erasmus deciding on the softly-spoken Stormers man came as quite a surprise, but it is clear the new Bok coach believes the “jack of all trades” among his forwards has what it takes to be an inspirational and good leader of the national rugby team.
“With his work ethic and determination he’ll always be in the selection mix and he’s another leader we want to develop going into the World Cup (in Japan) next year,” said Erasmus this week.
“This is the perfect stage to start that process.”
The 25-year-old Du Toit, with 32 Test caps behind his name, is the most experienced member of the squad travelling to the USA this week.
And, for this first Test of the year, Du Toit will wear the No 5 on his back, and take charge of the line-out calling, among his other duties as captain.
Of course, such is his skills set and versatility as a player that Du Toit can just as easily be used as a No 4 lock, or, as has happened regularly in the past for the Stormers and the Boks, as a blindside flank.
At two metres tall and weighing 120kg, Du Toit has a lot going for him, much to the delight of Erasmus.
“With Lood (de Jager) and Eben (Etzebeth) out (through injury), we thought it best to use Pieter-Steph at five this week,” explained Erasmus. “We need him there this week he’s got the experience.”
But in future, don’t be surprised to see the Boks’ latest skipper run out with the number seven on his back.
“We will definitely also use him at flank at some stage,” confirmed Erasmus. “Sometimes people tag others as a jack of all trades and master of none, but that is not the case with Pieter-Steph. He can start at five-lock any time or blindside flank any time.”
The man himself, who this week said captaining the Boks would hit him when he runs out in front of his team on Saturday, doesn’t seem too perturbed where he is picked.
“My main goal is to be a great Bok; the other things are a bonus, so captaining this team is beyond my dreams. I haven’t even thought about it properly.
“I like to think I will lead by example, put my deeds where my mouth is, play well and train well be a real professional.”
Du Toit has shown in recent seasons that it doesn’t matter where he is selected - in the second row or among the loose-forwards - you’re always going to get 100 percent from him.
Captaining a young and inexperienced Bok team on foreign territory will be one of his bigger challenges in recent times.
Tomorrow’s match in Washington kicks off at 11pm SA time.