The much-anticipated comeback of Springbok star Pieter-Steph du Toit has been put on hold for at least another week after the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year was ruled out of Saturday’s first Test against Wales.
Du Toit was injured almost a year ago in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions and after he played some rugby for his club in Japan a few months back, it had been hoped that Loftus Versfeld on Saturday would mark his return to the green and gold.
However, Bok assistant coach Deon Davids told the media on Monday that the 29-year-old is not ready.
“Everyone is available for the Test, except Pieter-Steph, who’s still in his rehab phase,” Davids said.
“Pieter-Steph's class is obvious, he was the best player in the world for a period. He and Duane (Vermeulen) play important leadership roles so it is not ideal to have them injured but we need to see the glass as half-full. There are exciting youngsters you can give an opportunity to as well as versatile, experienced guys like Franco Mostert.
“Of course we would have liked the continuity of a Pieter-Steph, but we can now broaden the base and we’ll make the best decisions for the team going forward.”
If there is a silver lining to the cloud of the experienced pair being injured, it is the fact that the Boks are majorly blessed in the loose forward department and there are ample replacements.
The replacement for Vermeulen is likely to be last year’s stand-in No 8 Jasper Wiese and a like-for-like replacement for Du Toit is surely the vastly experienced Marcell Coetzee, although Mostert has also played there in Du Toit’s absence.
Starting the popular Bulls captain on his home pitch makes a whole lot of sense and in any case, coach Jacques Nienaber had hinted that he will blood youngsters Elrigh Louw and Evan Roos later in the series and depending on how the Boks fare — he has said that if the first two Tests are won, he will be tempted to blood newcomers in the third.
Nienaber also has Deon Fourie and Kwagga Smith at his disposal and it is likely that they will both be on the bench.