JOHANNESBURG - Lions loosehead prop Sti Sithole can’t wait to test himself against the best Super Rugby has to offer.
The 25-year-old is finally set for a long run in the squad now that the likes of Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen are playing overseas. It’s been a bit of a wait for the former Sharks man, who also made a turn at the Stormers and Kings, and joined the Lions at the beginning of 2017.
“It’s nice to get a run, to be rewarded after a tough pre-season,” said Sithole with a beaming smile.
“I’m obviously glad I’ve got a bit of an opportunity now, with Ruan and Jacques having gone overseas. I suppose there was a spot there and it looks like I took it.
“I’m frothing at the mouth for the challenges that lie ahead. You know us props, we love scrumming. I’m psyched about taking on new and different players.”
Sithole has been in and out of the Super Rugby squad since joining the Lions from the Kings and played off the bench against the Stormers last weekend. He is now hoping to feature against the Springbok-laden Bulls pack this weekend.
“That year at the Kings was very important,” he said. “I can’t imagine where I’d be if I didn’t go there. I grew so much as a player and it’s because I played there that I am here now. It was crucial to get that opportunity and to play consistently.”
Former Lions coach Johan Ackermann got Sithole to move to Joburg and he hasn’t looked back. He credits Ackermann and a few other scrum gurus as playing a key part in his development.
“Johan Ackermann signed me and showed me a lot of things, and also Balie Swart, our former scrum coach, and most recently coach Swys (de Bruin) and former Bok prop Julian Redelinghuys, who has so much experience and knowledge.”
On Redelinghuys, who was forced to quit rugby two years ago after breaking his neck, Sithole said the now Lions scrum coach was one of the toughest No 3s he’s faced. “The toughest guy I’ve scrummed against is Julian, and the other is (Crusaders prop) Owen Franks.”
Getting used to the Lions’ fast-paced style has challenged several newcomers and Sithole is no different. He admitted he had to step up his fitness, which he felt had benefited his overall game.
“I feel I’ve definitely made a step up. Scrumming fitness was a thing for me, but coming up here has worked out well. It also helps that we train at a high intensity, similar to what we’d experience during a game.
“Also here at the Lions we’re constantly looking to improve; there’s always something new to learn.”
Asked which players had inspired him in his formative years at school, Westville Boys High, Sithole almost predictably said: “The Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) has always been a big inspiration ever since I started to take rugby seriously at high school.”@jacq_west