Sharks will miss injured in-form lock Du Toit

2015-03-17 00:00

THE worst fears are yet to be finally confirmed but Sharks and Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit could be ruled out for a number of months with another debilitating knee injury.

The massive young lock twisted his knee badly in the Sharks’ 27-10 win over the Cheetahs this weekend. What made matters worse was that it was Du Toit’s fifth game back after recovering from an injury to the same knee, that ruled him out of most of the 2014 season.

According to Sharks doctor Alan Kourie, Du Toit went to Cape Town yesterday to see the same specialist that operated on his knee last year.

“We are hoping that it is not a re-rupture of his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and a confirmed diagnosis will be made after seeing the specialist,” Kourie said in a statement.

“We as the Sharks family and I’m sure South African rugby fans at large are hoping that his injury is not as bad as originally feared,” he added.

The 22-year-old has been in sublime form this season, which is impressive considering the amount of time he spent on the sidelines last year. Although it hasn’t been easy going, he has tested himself against the likes of fellow Springboks Victor Matfield and Eben Etzebeth in the first four rounds and his stats show he was in for a stellar Super Rugby campaign.

According to the Vodacom Super Rugby app, after round five Du Toit was the leading lineout taker in the competition, with a total of 28. He was also the chief thief at lineout time, with four lineout steals to his name.

The closest South African to him is the Springbok veteran Matfield, who has taken 14 of his own lineouts this season.

Away from the contest in the air, Du Toit’s bulk has certainly beefed up the Sharks scrums as well and his teammates will surely miss him in the engine room. Luckily Giant Mtyanda performed well in the past two rounds, and he is the closest to Du Toit in terms of sheer size in their second row ranks.

His contributions in open play also spoke volumes. Despite his massive frame, Du Toit has been mobile around the field and got through plenty of work, especially on defence. He has put in some massive hits and his loss, ­coupled with Willem Alberts having to sit out once again, means the Sharks are lacking the grunt they desperately need this weekend when they host the Chiefs.

Du Toit has also carried the ball strongly on attack and gave the Sharks plenty of quality ball at ruck time, as any good second rower would aim to do.

According to Kourie, Alberts will spend another three weeks on the ­sidelines with a hamstring strain. While the Bok flank is best suited to blindside flank, he might have been an option at lock.

Stephan Lewies, who made his Springbok debut last year and played well in Super Rugby and Currie Cup, still has about four weeks of rehabilitation after knee and shoulder surgery last year — meaning he won’t be able to fill the void just yet.

However, Etienne Oostuizen was finally back on the training field yesterday, although it’s not clear if he could make a return this weekend. He trained with a heavy strapping and will most likely have to train for a couple of weeks before he is introduced to the mix.

Speaking to the media after yesterday’s training session in Durban, assistant coach Sean Everitt summed up the severity of losing Du Toit.

“Pieter-Steph is an international class player and he’s probably the form lock in the tournament at the moment. It’s obviously a big loss for us and as far as the backline is concerned, you’re only as good as your setpiece,” Everitt said.

“From a team point of view … we’re really going to miss him and we feel for him as an individual.”

But Everitt shied away from speculating as to when Du Toit might be available again.

“We don’t know when he will be back. He’s going to the specialist and they’ll have the final diagnosis on his injury … we’re holding thumbs that it’s not as bad as we think it is.”

The Sharks take on the Chiefs in ­Durban this Saturday. Kickoff is at 7.10 pm at King’s Park.

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