CAPE TOWN – Sharks loosehead prop Thomas du Toit has been called up the Springbok squad for Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown with the All Blacks at Newlands, while Raymond Rhule has been released for the second consecutive week.
The 22-year-old Du Toit – a former SA Schools star who hails from the Western Cape and attended Paarl Boys’ High, while also playing Craven Week rugby for Western Province – will join the Bok squad in Cape Town on Wednesday as “extra front row cover”, according to a statement from SA Rugby.
Du Toit, a powerful scrummager and ball-carrier, has been in top form for the Sharks in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby, and has been waiting patiently for an opportunity at the highest level.
But Tendai Mtawarira is the first-choice loosehead prop for Allister Coetzee at the moment, although Stormers No 1 Steven Kitshoff may finally get his chance to start on his home ground this week.
Kitshoff has been outstanding off the bench for the Boks this year, bringing a destructive presence in the tight loose and the scrums.
Mtawarira has been strong in the scrums in 2017, but doesn’t make much impact with ball-in-hand and in general play, something the Boks will need against an all-action All Black outfit on Saturday.
And that is what Kitshoff can bring to the starting line-up for 80 minutes, instead of just 25 or 30.
But there are some serious problems on the tighthead side for the Boks, with Ruan Dreyer against penalised heavily against the Wallabies last week in the absence of the injured Coenie Oosthuizen.
Forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot, though, is confident that the Lions No 3 can improve in time to take on the All Blacks.
“We are learning as a front row. I thought Ruan Dreyer was really good in Super Rugby and finding that rhythm for him, finding that confidence for him is key for us,” Proudfoot said.
“I think Frans Malherbe was really good when he started off for us this year and Coenie Oosthuizen stepped up when he had to, so with every change in the front row, there are different body shapes, which require different approaches.
“On Saturday, Ruan learned that when the opposition presents you with a different picture, you need to adapt to it – working on our technique so that we have a plan A and plan B if the opposition does certain things to you.”
Rhule has been sent back to the Cheetahs for the PRO14 competition, which should mean that Courtnall Skosan and Dillyn Leyds will continue as the starting wings against the All Blacks.
Saturday’s Test will be refereed by Frenchman Jerome Garces.