Home is where the heart is for Du Toit.
Pieter-Steph du Toit’s decision to stay in Cape Town until at least next year’s Lions tour is not only a wonderful outcome for the Stormers, but also a wise one for the man himself.
Du Toit would’ve warranted a mega deal from cash-flush clubs in Europe and Japan due to his status as the World Rugby Player of the Year, having starred for the Springboks in their march to the 2019 Rugby World Cup title.
But signing a contract extension on Thursday was arguably the right thing to do for the 27-year-old. The big-money contract will still come in the future, and he is likely to be among a number of Bok stars to make their way overseas following the British and Irish Lions series in 2021.
At this moment, though, home is where the heart is for Du Toit, and it is understandable why that is so.
He has just come off a potentially career-threatening injury that nearly saw him lose a leg, following a haematoma he sustained against the Blues on February 29, which resulted in a major operation.
He has been on the mend since, and coach John Dobson is hopeful that his star player would be back on the field once rugby resumes in South Africa over the next few months.
“He has had a serious injury and is busy with his rehab, but now that we have got clarity that really needs to be accelerated. We are hoping that he will be available when we get back on the field,” Dobson said.
With that in mind, a move overseas at this stage would have put Du Toit under tremendous pressure. Foreign clubs like to get their ‘bang for their buck’, and he would certainly have played more games at a French or English club than he would for the Stormers.
At home, he will be carefully managed by Dobson in 2020, as well as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus in 2021 leading up to the Lions series, where he would want to be in the best possible physical condition.
WP Rugby announced that Du Toit will be taking a pay cut like all other local players due to the impact of the coronavirus on the sport, but it is understood that he was able to secure some freedom with regards to image rights and being able to negotiate with overseas clubs going forward.
“He has bought into the collective bargaining agreement, and like the other players, has taken the same pay cut and wants to be part of our future here. I think that is credit to him because I think the pressure would have been substantial,” Dobson said.
“The support from the board and the shareholder in keeping Pieter-Steph and this amazing squad together has been absolutely incredible.
“We don’t have billionaire equity partners – we are owned by our clubs, which are going through enormous stress themselves.”
But while the Stormers have held on to Du Toit and signed fullback Warrick Gelant from the Bulls, they have lost flank Cobus Wiese and flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, who will join Dillyn Leyds and Wilco Louw in signing for overseas clubs.
“Jean-Luc and his family have been a part of the rich heritage of Western Province Rugby, but we can’t fault him for wanting to earn what he would be earning in Japan. We also understood that when he came off contract he would have gone anyway, so he leaves with our blessing, and we are obviously very sad to see him go,” Dobson said.
“Cobus Wiese has been looking to go overseas for personal reasons, and we were going to release him anyway.”