Brace yourselves Western Province and Stormers fans, I don’t think we’ll see Pieter-Steph du Toit in the Streeptrui in the near future once the Rainbow Cup is over.
The current World Player of the Year and World Cup winner’s contract at the union comes to an end in October and it’s believed that he is a subject of a big bid from Japanese club Toyota Verblitz.
At 28, you’d think it’s too early for a permanent move to the Land of the Rising Sun for the man from Riebeek Valley.
Under normal circumstances you’d be right, but Pieter-Steph’s case is far from normal.
Here we have a man whose career and quality of life flashed before his eyes after he suffered a “lammie” on his thigh against the Blues in Super Rugby action last year.
Out since then, Du Toit stared leg amputation in the face because of compartment syndrome and overcame it all to be ready in time for the Rainbow Cup.
Sidenote: WebMD describes compartment syndrome as follows: “Compartment syndrome occurs when excessive pressure builds up inside an enclosed muscle space in the body. Compartment syndrome usually results from bleeding or swelling after an injury. The dangerously high pressure in compartment syndrome impedes the flow of blood to and from the affected tissues. It can be an emergency, requiring surgery to prevent permanent injury.”
Anyway, he could have been match-ready for next week’s preparation match against the Lions, but in true hard-working Pieter-Steph mode, he suffered a nose injury in training which delayed his return a bit.
Let’s be honest, he is not the most skilful player in the world. He doesn’t entertain like a Cheslin Kolbe, he doesn’t win you games with big kicks like Frans Steyn.
What he does is play his heart out like Pieter-Steph du Toit and therefore I believe it’s time for the game to pay back a player that, for years, has left nothing in the tank to entertain fans the world over.
It seems to be a sentiment shared by those in the Stormers camp.
When talking about his link to Toyota Verblitz earlier in the week, coach John Dobson said: “We started talking to Pieter a while ago about staying on here for a couple of years and then we pushed pause on it, because it was such a traumatic injury.
“I think the stats are that of the 40 who have had exactly that form of compartment syndrome, there have been 22 amputations – so you’re looking at a 50 percent amputation.
“We got into a negotiation mode with Pieter and I think people largely missed the humane side of it – there’s a chance that this guy must go for an amputation and that he might never play touch rugby or play with his kids in the garden. That he was not going to be the same player that he was.
“The nerve damage meant that there could be structural damages which could have meant more and more surgeries, so I think that’s why we pushed paused and literally said: ‘Pieter, do what is best for you’.
“And maybe Japanese rugby is not a bad option.
“But he is a freak of nature – when he started training he’d been out for 11 and a half months, he was absolutely extraordinary at training.”
Japan not only makes sense from a financial point of view for Pieter-Steph – although carrying the mantle of the world’s best player does come with its benefits – but I believe it will add years to his longevity as a player as well.
If memory serves correct, Andries Bekker also went to Japan years ago to prolong his playing career after battling back injuries.
They play fewer games and the competition might not be as physically taxing as tournaments in South Africa, even though Jesse Kriel, who got a lelike sny on his face in Japan over the weekend, might beg to differ.
Then there are some players such as Makazole Mapimpi and possibly JD Schickerling who go to Japan and then come back to South Africa, missing only a few weeks at the start of what used to be the “Super” season.
Damian de Allende and Schalk Burger had similar deals back in the day.
Anyway, Pieter-Steph’s move to Japan must be a permanent one.
After a big injury like this, he would have re-evaluated his life and would possibly have come to the conclusion that rugby isn’t that important.
It’d be a real tragedy if he couldn’t cash in on the game which he gave his life for.
Go and enjoy Japan Pieter-Steph… and make some lekker new memories there.