The return to fitness and form of Pieter-Steph du Toit should set alarm bells ringing for the British & Irish Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In the pre-season buildup to the Rainbow Cup SA, Stormers coach John Dobson suggested Pieter-Steph du Toit could quite possibly be back in form and ‘dominating the competition’ within a couple of weeks.
It seemed an exaggeration considering Du Toit, at that point, had not been seen in action since suffering a serious leg injury at the start of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
It was a traumatic injury to say the least and, based on his history of injuries, he would have been forgiven for wondering at times whether his body was built for this game.
Yet, at the start of the Rainbow Cup SA, the 28-year-old produced a herculean effort to get through two back-to-back 80-minute performances. In his third appearance, he banked a man-of-the-match award after a dominant display against the Sharks.
Early on in the second half of that clash, Du Toit streaked away from a group of defenders to score a memorable try. He was swamped by his teammates in celebration and as he trotted back to his half, the big man couldn’t wipe a beaming smile from his face.
It was a wonderful moment that spoke volumes about how happy he was to be back doing what he does best. And with a whopping 398-day absence from competitive action behind him, he has looked lean and mean.
Du Toit has always been renowned for his mobility and insatiable work rate for such a big man, and it was once again a standout feature throughout the World Cup campaign in Japan.
Nearly two years later, though, if the Boks hope to be successful against the touring Lions, they will certainly need the 2019 World Player of the Year to perform with the sort of confidence that only comes with regular game time.
When all is said and done, Du Toit is a powerhouse who would walk into any World XV selection, and remains the Boks’ incumbent candidate in the all-important blindside flank role. And, of course, if the Springboks’ lock stocks were hit by injury, he could still capably slot into the second row.
What the start of the Rainbow Cup SA demonstrated is that Du Toit could certainly be a force to be reckoned with against the Lions, while he should now benefit from further strength-and-conditioning work back in the Bok camp.
It’s a stunning reversal of fortunes considering that just a few months ago he was fighting his way back to fitness, and weighing up whether to head off to Japan to play in the less physically demanding Top League.
Yet, for the time being, all that can be put aside.
One of the Springboks’ most effective players is back in form and playing with a smile again.
That, in itself, is good reason for the Lions to beware of a once-wounded warrior who is now on the hunt for more success at the highest level.
Photo: Gallo Images