Albertus adds 'big' value to Bok breakdown
SPOTLIGHT: Pieter Stephanus du Toit and Albertus Stephanus Smith are two very contrasting players, even though they both wear No.7 in the Springbok team.
Du Toit was an influential member of the World Cup-winning Bok team in 2019 and when coach Jacques Nienaber named Smith as the ‘replacement’ for the injured flank cynics made it clear they doubted he would have the same impact.
A quick glance at their proverbial ‘tale of the tape’ would explain why there were some reservations.
Du Toit, 29, stands 200 centimetres tall and weighs in at a handy 120 kilograms.
He is a seasoned international, capped 58 times, and can play lock and flank. He made his debut against Wales in Cardiff in November 2013 – the last time the Boks won in Cardiff, till this weekend.
That is where there is a significant connection between the two loose forwards.
Smith was a key member of the Bok team – and loose forward combination – that ended an eight-year drought with a 23-18 win in Cardiff at the weekend.
The other two members of this past weekend’s Bok loose trio were Du Toit’s 2019 World Cup Final teammates – captain Siyamthanda Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen.
Smith, 28, before he became a 15-a-side Bok, was a legend of the Sevens circuit, a stalwart of a very successful BlitzBok team in the World Series.
At just 180 centimetres and 95 kilograms, there is a marked difference in size. He made his Bok debut, also against Wales, in Washington in June 2018 and has been capped 17 times.
However, this past weekend he produced a quality performance that not only silenced his doubters, but proved that the Bok coaching staff were not as ill-informed as most would have believed.
Nienaber said the goal is always to get the ‘balance’ right when they select a loose forward combination.
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“That is sometimes why people will question certain things in our team selections,” Nienaber told @rugby365com, when asked about the success of the current Bok loose trio.
“I really think there is a good balance in this combination.
“With Pieter-Steph [du Toit] out, Albertus has a different role – which he fits nicely into.”
And the numbers from this weekend’s win over Wales tells a story all of its own.
The combination of Duane Vermeulen, Albertus Smith and captain Siyamthanda Kolisi was central to the drought-breaking win.
Vermeulen made six carries and five tackles, but did lots of donkey work that contributed significantly to the team’s success.
Kolisi produced arguably one of his best performances in a Bok jersey. There was one significant carry, which included a tackle bust that saw the would-be tackler knocked backwards like a rocket launched into orbit. He made nine tackles – one of those a try-saving tackle inside the opening 10 minutes – and a crucial turnover.
Smith, the @rugby365com Man of the Match, made seven carries, one tackle break, 13 tackles and two turnovers.
Nienaber admitted that Cardiff is a tough place to play, as South Africa’s record in the last decade clearly illustrates.
“There was a lot of work done by the players and the management, to see what we can do different,” Nienaber told a post-match virtual media briefing.
“We made some alterations and changes in our preparations [in the build-up] during the week.”
That included the work done by a very different-looking loose trio.