Big lock Pieter-Steph confident young recruits can make Boks a better side
South African rugby player of the year‚ lock Pieter-Steph du Toit ‚ is keen to end the year on a high when the Springboks tour Europe.
The towering secondrower was crowned the country’s top player for 2016 at the SA rugby awards on Monday night.
Du Toit is part of the Springbok side that is in camp in Johannesburg preparing for the matches against the Barbarians‚ England‚ Italy and Wales.
It has not been a memorable year for the Boks so far after narrowly beating Ireland 2-1 in the mid-year incoming tour‚ before finishing a lowly third in the Rugby Championship.
Coach Allister Coetzee’s side won just two of their six matches against the All Blacks‚ Wallabies and Los Pumas in the Championship.
Following their below par form‚ the side has come under heavy criticism from pundits and the public‚ with Coetzee and his coaching team on the receiving end of most of the criticism.
Du Toit said the coaching staff had been doing their bit to ensure success and it was now up to the players to repay their faith.
“For the players‚ the coaches have done a great job‚” Du Toit said.
“Most of the time he [Coetzee] took the heat and tried to protect us from everything so that we can focus on our game. “They [coaches] have been great for the players as well.”
“It’s been a tough time‚ but hopefully at the end-year tour we can finish the year on a high‚ take that forward into the next year and the World Cup in 2019.”
With only 17 test caps to his name‚ the 24-year-old lock will be one of the senior men in the Bok team that will take on the Barbarians – a number of overseas-based Springboks will be unavailable – in their first match of the tour.
Du Toit is confident that the new recruits touring for the first time with the national team can contribute and make the Boks a better side.
“This is a very young side with only about 11 players who played in the Rugby Championship‚” Du Toit pointed out.
“There are a lot of new faces‚ so I think if we can just gel with each other and the team culture can be better‚ we can definitely become better.”
Du Toit was overjoyed after he was named South Africa’s player of the year.
The lock‚ who has had injury-riddled seasons since making his Bok debut in 2013‚ associates his personal success this year to remaining injury-free.
“It is definitely one of the biggest nights of my life. “It is more than a dream coming true for me. It is something I never expected.”
“I can’t believe it and just want to thank everyone who supported me‚ staying injury- free so far and God for giving me the talent. “The coaches stuck and believed in me in tough times‚” he said.