Super Rugby

Johan du Toit to fill void left by older brother Pieter-Steph?

Johan du Toit
Johan du Toit

When you lose a World Rugby Player of the Year to injury it is not an easy thing for a team to deal with and there is much interest in what Stormers coach John Dobson will do to cover for the loss of Pieter-Steph du Toit in Saturday's big Super Rugby derby in Durban.

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It was confirmed after the Blues game that the Springbok blindside flank had sustained a hematoma in the match that required surgery and it is anticipated he will be out for eight weeks, meaning that the earliest we will see Du Toit wearing the Stormers No 7 again will be when they tour Australasia and Japan towards the end of the league phase of competition.

According to, Dobson's quandary is similar to the one that Jake White faced as a Springbok coach back in 2006.

When another Stormers World Rugby Player of the Year award winner, Schalk Burger, was ruled out for the rest of the international season after being injured in a June Test match against Scotland in Port Elizabeth, White contended that replacing Burger would be like replacing three players rolled into one.

You could say the same about Du Toit, but the Stormers arguably do have more obvious ready options than White did when faced with the task of having to find a new No 6 14 years ago.

And one of them is a player who closely resembles Du Toit, his younger brother Johan. Cobus Wiese, who didn't take the bye week off so that he could work on his fitness, is another. Both are talented young players.

Stormers assistant coach Norman Laker was not giving anything away when he spoke to the media at the start of the build-up week to the first game where the Stormers will be without the omnipresent, hard-working senior Du Toit, but he left little doubt that the replacement would have the full confidence of both the coaching and playing staff.

"Pieter-Steph is a big loss for us. He is a phenomenal leader and of course he is the reigning World Rugby Player of the Year. Pieter-Steph is not a player you can really substitute," said Laker.

"But there are guys in the system who have been getting ready to fill that role if they are needed to and the guy who will take over from Pieter-Steph on Saturday has been doing it phenomenally (in training). So we are confident that the guy who steps into Pieter-Steph's shoes will be doing the same job that was require of him. It is a guy who deserves a chance to show what he can do."

A year ago Wiese would have been a shoo-in but he has made a slow start to the rugby year after coming back from a serious injury that prevented him from taking any part in last year's Currie Cup for Western Province.

"Cobus is coming along and even in the bye week he did his extras. He didn't really get time off, like one or two other individuals that we are looking at. There was that game against the Lions where he was not so good when he came on as a replacement but we mustn't forget that the match was played on the Highveld. That's a tough place to play if you haven't played much recently.

"Cobus has been training really well and has made good progress in training over the past few weeks. He is looking good," added Laker.

The excitement the defence coach expressed when he spoke of the younger Du Toit though suggested that this could well be a game where one Du Toit will be stepping into the shoes of another.

They are at different stages of their career, but Laker feels the differences between the pair may not be quite as great as the chasm between their respective current statuses would suggest.

"Johan is a phenomenal worker and I am not sure which one is quicker, Johan or Pieter. They always fighting among each other about that," he said. "Pieter-Steph's height is obviously a bit different to Johan's, but Johan's work-rate and his speed around the park is just astounding.

"A lot of what he does may be unseen by most rugby people and the rugby public at large. Sometimes he plays at No 6, sometimes at No 7, and in the warm-up game against the Kings he played No 8. His work-rate is always unbelievable. I am not going to say he is going to play 7 against the Sharks but if he does he will be a very good substitute to have.

"He is a tough player. Maybe not quite as tough as Pieter-Steph as a ball-carrier. Maybe five percent less tough all-round than Pieter-Steph. But that is saying something. You'd expect that though because they come from the same mother and father."

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