Getting starts has ‘done wonders’ for Stormers’ Sti Sithole

Stormers' head coach John Dobson

FILE - Stormers' head coach John Dobson. Photo: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP

Published Feb 15, 2024


If you lose Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe at the start of a new season, you would expect your scrum to struggle a bit.

But that has not been the case for the Stormers, and one of the unsung heroes in that regard has been loosehead prop Sti Sithole.

Having made his provincial bow at Western Province, a lack of regular game time saw Sithole – who is from Durban – leave Cape Town and seek greener pastures first at the Southern Kings in the Eastern Cape, and then the Lions in Johannesburg.

The former Junior Springbok was then brought back to the Stormers this season after Kitshoff’s move to Ulster, and he has shone in what has been a remarkable effort by the tight five in the scrums.

Along with the likes of Ali Vermaak at loosehead and Neethling Fouché and Brok Harris at tighthead, Sithole has been a rock for the Cape outfit in the set piece.

“It’s been a wonderful environment. Dobbo (coach John Dobson) has always been big on team culture, so I am happy to have fitted into that quite nicely in the last few months. It’s been lovely to be here,” the 30-year-old Sithole said this week ahead of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against the Sharks in Durban (5.05pm kick-off).

“A scrum is about eight guys, so I am just a piece in the puzzle. Our scrum is performing, but it’s not bigger than the individual – it’s always about the collective. Getting a couple of starts has done wonders for my confidence.”

Fouché has often spoken about how tough the Stormers’ scrum training sessions are, and Sithole confirmed that no one holds back in practice under the watchful eye of forwards coach Rito Hlungwani, as well as senior statesman Harris and scrum consultant Hanyani Shimange.

Asked if it was tougher than scrums in a match, he said: “Of course it is! We really go at each other. In fact, I just came from one right now, and I’m quite sore. We push each other to the max and really test each other there.”

Coach Dobson will hope that the return of Malherbe from injury will come soon enough for the Sharks game, with the Bok stalwart back in training, although he may only feature against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on March 2.

But the Stormers’ boss praised Sithole’s contribution to the scrum effort.

“We had a good relationship when Sti was in the juniors and Vodacom Cup, and we understood when he left, there was Kitsie and JC Janse van Rensburg,” Dobson said.

“When he went to the Lions, it was very much with our blessing. But a high-quality individual, great scrummager … I don’t think anybody expected our scrum to be more dominant as it has been, so we are thrilled with Sti.”


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