“His return has got me to up my game each week,” said the 21-year-old. “With Victor back, it means when it comes to Springbok selection, I need to be at my best. The Bok coaching staff likes a No 5 lock who can control the lineout and it’s something I want to develop here at the union.”
Yet even though the selection stakes have become a bit higher for the prodigy from the Swartland, the legendary Matfield’s return paradoxically might actually lessen the burden on him.
Before this season, Du Toit was perhaps overhyped – not due to his potential, which is plentiful – in terms of his significance, because the options were, frankly, thin.
His exposure to international rugby has been confined to two Tests as Bok mentor Heyneke Meyer chose to play Flip van der Merwe slightly out of position alongside Eben Etzebeth, but the growing feeling was that Du Toit was on his way to being fast-tracked.
Now the progress could be more measured. However, that doesn’t mean the expectations have been lowered – Du Toit is still being groomed as the intelligent protege of Matfield, a process already started last year.
“I’m running the lineouts and even though it’s something relatively new to me, I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I enjoy the position and it’s responsibility. We have a forwards meeting at the beginning of each week and there’s a lot of input from everyone involved. Forwards coach Paul Anthony and I spend quite a lot of time doing computer analysis.”
Du Toit’s gradual journey will continue this weekend when the Sharks face the Reds at home, highlighted by a particularly stern challenge posed by former Wallaby skipper James Horwill, who fulfills much of the same role.
“The Reds always have quality forwards and James always competes fiercely for the ball in the set-piece. We’ll have to stay sharp,” he said.
“But we’ve focused on our set-pieces in training this week and we should be ready for the challenge that we’ll be given.”