The Cell C Sharks are facing their biggest challenge of the Currie Cup tournament as they prepare for Saturday’s showdown with the Toyota Free State Cheetahs who finished the pool stages top of the log.
It’s been a busy year for prop Thomas du Toit, from Vodacom Super Rugby action, to representing the Springboks and now playing an important role in the heat of a Currie Cup battle that has hit the semi-final stages.
Ahead of the Cell C Sharks semi-final clash in Bloemfontein, du Toit, reflects on a very satisfying year so far.
“In Super Rugby I got an opportunity to play on both sides of the scrum which was something I wanted to do but getting more time at tighthead which was the plan from the start so I was very happy with that,” he explains. “Super Rugby was a good campaign for me, I learned a lot and enjoyed it.”
He then spent time with the Springboks before being released back to his province for a return to Currie Cup action.
“It was awesome spending time with the Springboks where you get to learn so much, in a different place from a different perspective and the change of scenery forces you to learn even more; the different coaching styles also help.
“Being back in Currie Cup, I feel there is pressure – both more and less. More from a sense of other players looking up to you and less with the number of people looking down on you. I’m enjoying my time back in Durban with the team and with my wife and family and friends.”
He may have suffered the disappointment of having his World Cup hopes dashed but acknowledges that he has a different role to play now.
“That’s the most important thing for me, I love playing this game, I want to be playing as much as I can and the Currie Cup provides me with that opportunity.
“When I came back to the team, there was a bit of a buzz, everyone is keen to play and the vibe is really good. There’s a strong drive to work on The Sharks culture and everyone want to work hard for each other.”
Turning his focus to the big match, he points out that they have a huge amount of respect for their opponents.
“They play a very quick game, playing from anywhere on the field. They have so many attacking threats which is a big challenge, but a challenge we’re ready for and excited about.”
After coming back from 19-nil down against Western Province last week to ultimately win that game, this is a team that knows how to claw its way back from a dark place.
“We can’t underestimate this team but we’re excited for the challenge.”
With the energy in the camp and the excitement, mixed with a great run of successes against the bigger provinces, it is natural that the team eyes back-to-back victories in the final, but du Toit issues a stern warning in that regard.
“The most important thing is not to look too far ahead. We can’t win the Currie Cup if we lose this weekend, so we’re looking forward to this match and this match only.”