Can Steven Kitshoff do a ‘Beast’ against Lions scrum?
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CAPE TOWN - When Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira destroyed Phil Vickery in the scrums in the 2009 first Test between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions, Steven Kitshoff was still at school.
Now, 12 years later, the Stormers captain is set to don the same Green and Gold No 1 jersey against the Lions on July 24 at Cape Town Stadium.
So, can the 29-year-old emulate Mtawarira when he squares up against the likes of Tadhg Furlong and Kyle Sinckler in the first Test?
“Back in 2009, I was still in Grade 11 at school, and it was awesome as a kid watching Beast perform like that,” Kitshoff said with a smile yesterday from the Bok camp in Bloemfontein.
“I will definitely try my best, if I get selected for the Springboks, to represent and uphold that jersey as best as I can.”
The ginger-haired front-rower is now one of the best loosehead props in the world, but will have to do his talking on the pitch in the scrums, as he knows exactly how tough an opponent Irishman Furlong can be. He first encountered the tighthead prop at the Junior World Championships in Cape Town in 2012.
In a massive upset, the Junior Boks lost 23-19 in Stellenbosch, with Furlong leading the Irish scrum to victory in his battle with Kitshoff.
“He is a very good tighthead, which he has shown over the last couple of years. He has represented Ireland very well, and previously for the British and Irish Lions, he played really well,” Kitshoff said.
“I know Tadgh – I played SA Under-20 against him, and in my Springbok debut, I scrummed against Tadgh. So, I’ve had a couple of games against him. He is a world-class player, but I’m not taking anything away from our tightheads at the Springboks – it’s world-class players who can rock up any day and outscrum anyone.”
With Mtawarira’s retirement following the 2019 World Cup, Kitshoff will front the Bok scrum against the Lions, but before that, they will also have to contend with a highly competitive Georgia pack in the first Test on July 2. He doesn’t feel that he will have a different mindset now that he is the firstchoice No 1, though.
“I just want to say, playing behind or with Beast for a couple of years was a massive honour and privilege … to learn from him and to help out where I can. We all know he’s a great legend in the game and in South African rugby,” Kitshoff said.
“When it comes to my mental approach, it’s going to be similar – doing my job as good as I can for the team and sacrificing myself for the Springboks and the greater good of the team. My preparation will stay similar, and the hard work that goes in preparing for the game will stay consistent.”
Meanwhile, Bok assistant coach Deon Davids said that the “excitement is growing” after most of the locally-based players from the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions joined the camp in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
“Getting the bulk of the players in this week, you could see the excitement growing. With today’s session, there were some good things we saw,” Davids said.
“It’s a massive honour to be here, to be in such a dynamic environment and working with players with so much experienced. That collective approach – not about the individual, but doing what’s best for the whole team – is very important.
“The guys have won a World Cup and there are good systems in place, so it’s about building on that and making adjustments where necessary. It’s quite good to sit with the players and having chats about what worked and what didn’t.”