While it is tempting for coach Rassie Erasmus to move versatile forward Pieter- Steph Du Toit into the second row, he should trust his wealth of quality locks and stick with the flanking combination that has worked so well thus far.
In speaking of the non-selection of incumbent number 5 Franco Mostert, Du Toit’s name was quickly mentioned by Erasmus as a possible replacement.
And while the Springboks would lose no quality with Du Toit at lock, his work in the loose this year has proven to be enormously valuable. More valuable, I would argue, than using him as a safety net at lock.
In Eben Etzebeth’s imposing return to test rugby, the Springboks regained huge experience and physicality in the second row. This allows then comfort in selecting talented inexperience alongside the monster number 4.
What the Springbok locking depth lacks in test caps it makes up for in talent. RG Snyman in June proved to be more than adept to test level rugby, putting in massive performances against an England pack that is arguably one of the most physical in World Rugby. So while only in his first year of test rugby, Snyman has already proven himself against England. While he is considered more of a number 4, he is also fully capable at 5.
Lood De Jager can also offer cover off the bench at 5, having returned to fitness, and the exciting prospect still looms in JD Shickerling, the Western Province tower who has earned his first Springbok call up.
Du Toit, starting at flank, allows for further versatility within the team than if he is to start at lock. He would provide a third lineout option from flank (exclusive of the locking combination) and could also potentially move into the second row later in the game which would then allow for the selection of a more dynamic player on the bench such as Warren Whiteley or Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who could add explosive impact as the game opens up towards the final quarter.
The Kolisi, Du Toit axis has been one of the great successes of the Springbok season thus far, and to break it up when there is a wealth of locking quality, yet no specialist blindside flanker in the squad just doesn’t make sense.
Hopefully Saturday will see Erasmus trust his locks and again allow Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph Du Toit to impose themselves as the premier loose forward combination in World Rugby.