CAPE TOWN – Will Pieter-Steph du Toit run out in the Stormers’ starting line-up against the Waratahs on Saturday?
Maybe, maybe not.
While that question will only be answered tomorrow, one thing’s for certain - if it was up to forwards coach Russell Winter, Du Toit wouldn’t find himself at flank unless it’s an “emergency situation”.
The Springbok lock will be available for the Stormers’ first match of their three-match tour to Australasia after recovering from a back injury that plagued him during pre-season, while his second-row partner, Eben Etzebeth, will remain on the sidelines for the near future while he’s recovering from a shoulder nerve injury.
In the Bok duo’s absence, JD Schickerling and Chris van Zyl, who were the starting Currie Cup locks, started in the Stormers’ Super Rugby-opener against the Jaguares at Newlands last week.
While Winter praised Schickerling and Van Zyl’s contribution, he also said that he’s excited to see Du Toit back in action.
“It must be said - we’ve got very good locks in the Western Province franchise,” Winter said.
“It’s great having Pieter-Steph back, it’s such a big boost. He can cover loose forward, he’s very good in the lineouts, but in saying that the locks have been doing very well, not only in the Currie Cup, but now as well. He (Du Toit) can definitely make a big difference to the side, and if he gets chosen on Saturday, I’m excited to see what he brings to the side.”
The Boks have started a questionable trend of playing the international second-row forward at No 7 flank, even though his shortcomings, especially in terms of his speed and defence around the fringes, have been exposed in the past. And although there have been a couple of stints in the back row where Du Toit wasn’t a liability, he’s much better suited at No 5 lock.
And if it was up to Winter, he would only move the Bok lock to flank in “emergency situations”.
“Personally I see him (Du Toit) as a lock who can cover loose forward (as opposed to a utility forward), but predominantly he’ll play lock,” Winter said.
“Only in certain games or circumstances will he cover loose forward, but I see him as a lock.”
“He’s a very good (No) 5 lock, he calls the lineouts really well and he adds some mobility to the pack, that’s what you need. With the way the game’s going it’s a fast game, and for me he’s an outstanding lock and just someone who can cover loose forward if we need him in emergencies.”
Regarding their three-match tour, Winter said they’ve learnt their lessons from last year’s tour to New Zealand and won’t be setting any goals - other than to take it week by week - for their overseas trip.
“We’re just taking it week by week, we’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves. We’re gonna go flat-out for a win this week and hopefully we can put our things together and get one,” he said.