Former Springbok lock Mark Andrews believes the injury to Pieter-Steph du Toit is a big blow to the Springboks' World Cup prospects. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Should Du Toit fail to recover from the knee injury that he suffered against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, the consequences could be far-reaching for Springbok rugby. While Heyneke Meyer's squad looks capable of withstanding an injury blow in most positions, No 5 lock is not one of them.
The 22-year-old Du Toit and 37-year-old Victor Matfield are shaping up as the only prospects for the upcoming World Cup. To lose one of the pair, when he had started the season in such sparkling form, places the Springboks in a precarious position.
Andrews, who won 77 Test caps for the Boks as well as the 1995 World Cup, says that if Du Toit had to be ruled out of the World Cup, it would be a worse-case scenario for the Boks.
'It'll be a huge loss for the Springboks. No disrespect to Jean de Villiers and his standing in South African rugby, but it would be as big a loss,' Andrews told SARugbymag.co.za. 'Our chances of winning the World Cup will go down perhaps 10% if he was ruled out.'
The Springboks were handed positive news regarding Du Toit's injury on Tuesday afternoon, but should his recovery not go as well as expected, the Springboks will need to find a viable replacement. Locally there are few options, with Ruan Botha and the currently injured Stephan Lewies two possible contenders, although neither have shown themselves worthy of an international call-up at this stage of their careers.
Andrews believes Meyer might need to look abroad in search for a replacement.
'There's no-one else that stands out for me at the moment. He [Du Toit] is head and shoulders above the rest of the South African second rowers in Super Rugby.
'Perhaps we need to look at getting Andries Bekker back. I haven't seen him play in a couple seasons, but if they can get him back for the end of the Super Rugby tournament, then he would be a good fit. He has the experience and has done it before at international level.'
Du Toit has been one of the standouts for the Sharks despite their slow start to the season, and is the top lineout performer in the competition. However, Andrews believes that it's his physicality that will be missed the most by the Boks should he be ruled out. Andrews remains worried about the ability of the Bok tight five to dominate against top-class opposition.
'The problem for the Boks at the moment is we don't have anyone in the tight five that dominates physically, apart from Bismarck du Plessis,' says Andrews.
'Eben Etzebeth hasn't returned to the form he showed in his first season, while Victor Matfield has never been the greatest when it comes to the physical side of the game. Bakkies Botha used to compensate for him in this regard, but he's gone now.
'Take nothing away from what Victor has achieved, but Du Toit is a complete second rower – a No 4 and No 5 rolled into one. He's not only great in the technical aspects, but physically there are few that can match him. Add to that his presence on the field, and you can see why there's so much hype surrounding him.
'Unfortunately he's had his problems with injuries, but I believe he's still set for a long future at the top.'
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