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Priority number 1 for Smit: Keep Pieter-Steph

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 21 Jun 2013 at 10:07
Tagged with : , , , , , , ,

Not to be alarmist, or anything, but SuperSport’s Brenden Nel has this morning lifted the lid on a situation that has been bubbling under for a while now, unbeknownst to most. Possibly the most exciting young talent in South African rugby at the moment, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, comes out of contract at the end of October and come 1 July this year will effectively be “up for grabs” on the market.

From a Sharks point of view, perhaps the most alarming thing is that this raw youngster who has been thrust onto the big rugby stage very early in his career, has not yet opted to accept the renewal in front of him. A lot has been said about John Plumtree has his “reticence” to back young players, but to Plum’s credit, when a guy as phenomenally gifted as young Steph came along, the coach backed him – and backed him to hilt. One would, perhaps, assume that there would be some loyalty to the team that gave him his break and that a contract renewal in Durban would be a foregone conclusion.

That view is, unfortunately, naive. Rugby is a big-money game these days and given his exploits over the last two years, coupled with some glowing praise from the Bok coach, Pieter-Steph is a big money-player, despite his age. SARU’s rules on contract negotiations, while widely ignored, are nevertheless clear and it is thus prohibited for any union other than the Sharks to put anything in front of Steph before that 1 July deadline. Whilst I’m sure much has already been informally agreed as to the sort of contract that might be attractive, right now, the only offer that du Toit is allowed to know about is the Sharks’ one. That fact, coupled with the loss of the coach who backed him, must surely be reason enough for the player to wait just a little while to see what other options are out there.

Nel mentioned the Bulls and WP are in the running for the player and given the former’s close links to at least one of those unions, you can be sure that Pretoria is prepared to throw a sizable chunk of cash – no doubt coupled with all sorts of assured selection clauses, at du Toit the moment dawn breaks on the first. Province will, I’m sure, do the same and will throw in the extra carrot of establishing a provincial partnership with Eben Etzebeth. That Etzebeth-du Toit partnership is the one, of course, that’s expected to become the next Matfield-Botha pairing for the Boks.

What the Sharks have that neither WP or the Bulls do, though, is John Smit. Together with Brenden Venter, who knows Pieter-Steph from last year’s SA Under 20 campaign, Smit is just the right man to sit down with the youngster, explain his role going forward, alleviate any concerns he may have relating to changes at the Sharks and ultimately convince him that the Sharks’ offer is the right one for him. I have all faith that this is exactly what will happen and that with Smit and Vetner to guide him, Pieter-Steph du Toit will shortly put pen to paper on a deal that will keep him in Sharks colours, hopefully for many years to come. He is out brightest young star and we simply MUST do what it takes to keep him on-board.

Over to you, John.


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