CAPE TOWN – There might be a lot of “ifs” and “buts” surrounding the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, but one thing’s for sure – Pieter-Steph du Toit’s presence will make the series just so much better.
The Springbok forward has reportedly fully recovered from several operations he has had and is ready to hit the training pitch again.
During the 2020 Super Rugby season, against the Blues at Newlands, Du Toit suffered a haematoma that developed into acute compartment syndrome, a rare injury that nearly cost him his leg.
The 2019 World Player of the Year was initially ruled out for three months, with Stormers team doctor Jason Suter afterwards revealing that Du Toit’s situation is extremely rare and that there have only been 43 cases listed in literature.
Given the perpetual surgeries and delays in return dates, Du Toit’s career and comeback was naturally starting to gain more and more question marks. But if he really is on the up and ready to train (and that goes well), it will no doubt be one of the biggest boosts the Boks could receive in 2021.
While a number of options are being weighed, having the presence of the Du Toit in the mix, regardless of when and where the Lions series goes down, is a hugely positive factor. Few players are more influential than him, after all. So, in what’s going to be another year riddled with uncertainty, the Boks will undoubtedly be a stronger unit having Du Toit there.
Speaking of the Lions series – while Rugby Australia offered to host the games, it should be the very last option considered by the South African Rugby Union.
RA also indicated that they would allow the tour to be pushed back by a week or two to allow the Lions space to recover before the tour.
Yes, it’s an option, and in these Covid-19 times, fresh thinking is needed to find ways to keep rugby going. But this is a tour that doesn’t happen every year, besides, what if Covid-19 interferes again? Also, what interest will Australia really have in hosting a series that they’ll play no part in? Apart from all the logistical issues, that vibe, that interest, just won’t be there. It won’t be the same.
Neither, I guess, will games played behind closed doors be. To be fair to supporters, having the tour next year – when stadiums are possibly open again – would probably be best. But for Saru, it might not be, especially considering that these tours are planned years in advance and that big money could be lost if the tour is postponed. It’s not an ideal situation by any means either.
It’s tough. Seriously tough. And whatever solution all parties involved come up with is likely to come with its own drawbacks, so there is probably no perfect solution.
Having Australia play host, though, is even further from the ideal than any of the options currently being considered.