Skrela could sink Gaffie

Gaffie du Toit admits that David Skrela’s move from Stade Français to Toulouse could signal the end of his career.

The former Springbok utility back is in his second (full) season with the French giants and was looking forward to an extended run in the side after watching Frédéric Michalak (now at Sharks) and Jean-Frédéric Dubois (now at Racing Metro) shared the flyhalf duties in the 2007/08 season.

Du Toit hasn’t had any competition for the No 10 shirt this season and has been solid in combination with All Blacks scrumhalf Byron Kelleher. Skrela, however, is expected to start ahead of Du Toit (who still has a year to run on his Toulouse contract). Skrela, who’ll join Toulouse at the end of the season (June), has signed a three-year deal.

“I thought after Michalak and Dubois left that I would have the chance to prove myself here at Toulouse,” the 31-year-old Du Toit told “But with Skrela coming the writing is probably on the wall for me.

“I won’t lay down though. I’ll fight to prove my worth here. I have between now and the end of the season to deliver performances that will make it very hard for the coaching staff to overlook me. But I have to realistic about things as well. I may move to a different team in Europe or look at my options back home [in South Africa]. The other option is to hang up my boots. It’s been a good innings for me and I wouldn’t look back with too many regrets if it all ended now.”

Du Toit has profited from marshalling a backline that is the envy of Europe. France internationals Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion, Vincent Clerc, Clément Poitrenaud, Cédric Heymans and Jean-Baptiste Élissalde all call Toulouse home. His foundation laying pack isn’t short of quality either, with the likes of Fabien Pelous, Thierry Dusautoir, Yannick Nyanga and countrymen Shaun Sowerby (currently the form No 8 in the Top 14) and Daan Human (who is having a superb campaign at prop) ensuring front foot ball.

Du Toit isn’t shackled by structure at Toulouse, whose coaching staff realise the value of giving him free reign. “Michalak could virtually do what he liked in matches, there were no restrictions and the coaching staff have given me the same freedom,” he said. ”

“In French rugby there’s generally a structured plan for first phase attack but from second phase onwards you play instinctively. It’s great and suits my strengths. In South Africa we are over-focused on structure, and that nullifies the impact some players may have. Frans Steyn is a perfect example of a player who is thriving under the Sharks coaching staff, who give him the licence to express himself.

“If they told him: ‘At this phase you do this, or, when you’re in this position do that’ it would completely destroy him. I think I’m the same in that way. The coaches here realise that I’m at my best when given that freedom. I wish I had that in South Africa. People would have seen a different player.”

Du Toit will line up against Skrela when the Toulouse face Stade Francais on 22 March. The match is particularly crucial for Stade if they hope to keep in touch with log leaders Toulouse and stay in the hunt for a play-off place.

By Ryan Vrede