SARugbymag.co.za readers had their say and voted Pieter-Steph du Toit’s shift from lock to flank as the most successful positional switch.
In a poll run by this website, readers voted the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year as having the most successful positional switch, ahead of former Springbok captains Jean de Villiers and John Smit.
Du Toit started his professional career at lock when he was at the Sharks between 2012 and 2015. However, he was gradually blooded in the back row by former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer during the 2015 World Cup.
Infamously, Du Toit started at blindside flank in the historic loss to Japan in Brighton. The move was heavily criticised as Du Toit was perceived as being too slow to the breakdown and in open play to make the position his own.
Regardless, he continued to be utilised between lock and flank during Allister Coetzee’s much-maligned reign over the Springboks between 2016 and 2017. Again, supporters were not in favour of the shift, especially following the Springboks’ 37-21 loss to England at Twickenham in 2016, when his defensive work around the breakdown was criticised after he missed two crucial tackles on England scrumhalf Ben Youngs.
However, Meyer and Coetzee’s idea was continued by Rassie Erasmus when he took over as Springbok coach in 2018. Ironically, it was Du Toit’s work rate and defence that was crucial in the Springboks securing a historic win in New Zealand against the All Blacks in 2018 and the 2019 World Cup.
What started as a crazy experiment under Meyer and Coetzee, turned into a masterstroke which helped the Springboks become world champions.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images