Du Toit’s biggest day

2014-07-23 00:00

YOUNG Sharks prop Thomas du Toit admits he is living the dream as he braces himself for one of the biggest matches of his brief career in Christchurch this weekend.

The 19-year-old is set to start for the Durban side in their Super Rugby semi-final against seven-time champions, the Crusaders, at the AMI Stadium on Saturday.

“It [playing in this semi-final] will probably be the biggest thing that’s happened in my life,” he said ahead of the game. “I never imagined anything like this could happen.

“All I was hoping for this year was just to make my U20 club side, so this is a massive bonus and amazing for me. It’s unbelievable.”

Seven months ago, the Cape Town-born teenager was awaiting his matric results after coming through HJS Paarl Boys’ High School, while also looking forward to furthering his rugby education at the Sharks Academy.

There was another surprise in store for the loose-head prop once he got to Durban and impressed the new Sharks director of rugby Jake White.

That was a place in the 39-man Super Rugby squad for 2014, although primarily to aid his front row development alongside the all-Springbok front row of Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira.

Since then, he was elevated to the Sharks XV and featured in the Vodacom Cup. He subsequently caught the eyes of the national selectors, who included him in the U20 Springbok squad for the IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand, where he featured prominently.

“Thomas has been outstanding since he got his chance,” White said of his rise.

“In Cape Town, he was outstanding in the mud, it was a real scrum-fest and he’s grown in confidence.

“And that’s only talking about his scrumming. I think his all-round performance of tackling, carrying the ball and his pick and drive game have all been outstanding.”

But Du Toit, who weighs in at 120 kilograms and stands at 1,87 metres, has highlighted the importance of staying grounded.

“It’s probably the most important thing [to stay grounded] right now,” the Nashua Durban Crusaders player said.

“Everything has happened really fast and what can happen is such a case is you just forget to stay humble.

“It’s hugely important at this stage for me.”

The former South Africa Schools prop has also been learning a lot from the Jannie and captain Bismarck.

“It’s amazing playing alongside them. I mean, with every scrum you learn something new,” Du Toit revealed.

“They’ve helped me so much on and off the field and it’s helping me grow as a player.”

As for his maiden Sharks voyage overseas, he added: “This is really is something else, it’s not something that I’m quite used to, but this year has prepared me really well for senior rugby.

“To play on that level is an amazing feeling, well above my expectations.

“I’m really looking forward to Saturday.”

DU TOIT’S RISE TO THE TOP

An injury to Beast Mtawarira and indifferent form from the other forwards prompted White to give Du Toit an opportunity in a match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on July 5.

The Sharks lost the game, but Du Toit impressed enough to earn a starting berth against the Stormers in Cape Town a week later.

It was there, where the Sharks sprung an upset to win, that he made everyone sit up and notice, while he followed up that showing with another outstanding display in the play-off victory over the Highlanders on Saturday.

During his King’s Park debut, he shared the front row with the Du Plessis brothers as the Sharks scrum demolished the Highlanders, with his coach again singing his praises.

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