Pieter-Steph, Faf key in Springbok opener against All Blacks
Springboks / 16 September 2019, 4:00pm / jacques van der westhuyzen
Who’ll stand tallest for the Springboks in their opening game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup this Saturday? Rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen picks his Bok forward and back who he believes will have the biggest influence on the team’s performance against the defending champions, the All Blacks, on Saturday.
Forward influencer: Pieter-Steph du Toit
Questions abounded when it was decided to turn him into a world-class blindside flank, but now, a few years later, the payoff is there for all to see. Du Toit is without question one of the game’s leading players and he’ll have a massive impact on how this weekend’s big Pool B clash plays itself out. He goes into the game in top form, carried over from 2018, and with his teammates following his every step.
Du Toit is the man who leads the way up front.
His work-rate is unmatched (with perhaps only Franco Mostert getting close), with his size and physicality ensuring he has a real presence in every exchange.
He’ll get stuck in at the rucks, support in the mauls and even look to steal ball on the ground.
His battle with the All Blacks’ answer to the Bok No 7, Ardie Savea, will be massive, and possibly match-defining.
Both are big, powerful men who do plenty in several areas and make sure the opposition know they’re in a contest.
Du Toit’s speed across the field and his ability to stop players in their tracks, to go with his high tackle rate, makes him the key man in the forwards and possibly in the entire Bok team.
If the Boks do pull off a first-up win it will have a lot to do with Du Toit. He is simply a rugby machine.
Backs influencer: Faf de Klerk
The little guy in the Bok team (he’s only 1.72m tall) is highly-rated by coach Rassie Erasmus, so much so that he’ll start this weekend even though rookie, and bench-sitter, Herschel Jantjies has had a bigger impact for the Boks this year.
De Klerk is key at the back. Because he receives the ball first from most set-pieces, rucks and mauls, his service to flyhalf Handre Pollard or the runners at first-receiver will determine who the Boks play and perform.
If his service is of the required high quality it will allow Pollard to shine and attack the gain-line; if it’s not the Boks could find themselves under pressure.
But De Klerk’s kicking from the base and his sniping around the fringes of the rucks and mauls could be the biggest game-changes.
If De Klerk produces the kind of game that’s made him one of the best in the world, the Boks could produce something special.