Heyneke gives glimpse of the future
Pieter-Steph du Toit may be on the bench and could make his Test debut as a No.4, but he is being earmarked as a future Springbok No.5.
This is the gist of the message delivered by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, when asked about his plans for the 21-year-old rookie, Du Toit.
Meyer on Wednesday named a team with just two uncapped players to open their year-end tour against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Prop Frans Malherbe will make his debut for South Africa, as the 22-year-old comes in for the injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead prop.
But the selection of the second row attracted just as much attention, with Flip van der Merwe starting next to Eben Etzebeth at lock and Du Toit on the bench.
"I think Pieter-Steph is a quality No.4," Meyer told the media gathering at the team's training base in Cardiff ahead of Saturday's Test at the Millennium Stadium.
He admitted that Du Toit may be a bit too raw and inexperienced yet for the important role of No.5, but did not rule out the possibility of him playing there.
However, it is more likely Meyer will continue to work on developing the young Sharks utility forward as a future Bok No.5 – to partner Eben Etzebeth in what is easily the most exciting and talented Bok second row combination since the Victor Matfield-Bakkies Botha era.
"At No.4 you don't have to call the line-outs so, if Flip [van der Merwe] is at No.5 he [Du Toit] can slot in at No.4 easily," the Bok coach said, adding: "But there is also an opportunity to play him and Eben [Etzebeth] together, it depends on the situation of the game.
"If Flip is on the field we will probably put him [Du Toit] on at No.4 to ease him into Test match rugby, but I have got confidence that if there is an injury he can slot into No.5 – he has been working on it for quite some time now."
Meyer said that while the plan is to ease Du Toit "slowly" into the Bok fold, sooner or later he has to swim.
"He is a quality player, especially outside of line-outs he is brilliant – he can be world class. But we will ease him in with the line-outs and he has really improved lately working with [forwards coach] Johan van Graan.
"I believe that Eben [Etzebeth] is one of the best No.4 locks in the world," Meyer said.
"Pieter-Steph reminds me a lot of [2007 World Cup-winning Bok] Danie Rossouw, where he is actually like a loose forward.
"In these conditions he can either play loose forward or No.5 lock and I have always felt that we need a No.5 lock, so if he plays with Eben then you have probably got two of the best youngsters in the world playing in the same team.
"Obviously I want to work with him and he can be a great No.5 lock if he learns, but he needs to get experience by playing No.5 and calling the line-outs.
"But long term I would love to have those two on the field together."
Meyer said there are also "two or three" good youngster in South Africa coming through as well.
"I think it is a nice blend we have now if you look at the team.
"There is a lot of experience on top and underneath every experienced guy there is a youngster as well."
Heyneke Meyer on his selections!