- Stormers prop Frans Malherbe is not surprised by the manner in which flank Pieter-Steph du Toit has hit his straps since returning from injury.
- Malherbe says Du Toit is a phenomenal player and there's a reason why he was the world player of the year in 2019.
- The Stormers are expecting a tough battle up front against the Lions at Ellis Park this weekend.
The Stormers may have made a stuttering start to the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA with two home losses, but a shining light has been the return to action of flank Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Du Toit, who had been sidelined with a career-threatening leg injury for more than a year, made his return in the Stormers' 33-30 loss to the Sharks at Cape Town Stadium and featured prominently in last weekend's 20-16 loss to the Bulls at the same ground.
He has been one of the Stormers' standout players over the past fortnight and it's hard to believe that this is a player who almost had his leg amputated little over a year ago.
The 28-year-old is certainly not shying away on the physical front - against the Bulls he made the most tackles of any Stormers player (22) and he was also joint-second with nine tackles in the opener against the Sharks.
Du Toit's team-mate, Springbok prop Frans Malherbe, told reporters on Tuesday that the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year's presence has lifted the team.
"It's very nice to see him back after that bad injury that he had. He's topping the tackle count... and if you look how he plays after such a big injury, then there's a reason why he was IRB (World Rugby) player of the year.
"He's a phenomenal player and he's obviously also an experienced guy which adds to the leadership. So yes, it's very nice to have him back and I'm very glad for him that he's straight into the form that he's [showing]," Malherbe said during a virtual media briefing.
As usual, the Stormers scrum was solid against the Bulls but they lost four lineouts which proved costly.
Looking ahead to this weekend's clash against the Lions in Johannesburg, Malherbe said it was about executing better in this department.
"The Bulls are a good contesting team at lineout time... we've worked hard on it today and yesterday actually. It's a mixture of taking the right option and executing that option to the best of our ability. We'll work on it the rest of the week as well and hopefully we take all the right options and execute them."
The Stormers will be hoping to continue their scrum ascendancy against the Lions but Malherbe warned not to underestimate the Lions in that department.
"Every team has its own identity, especially when it comes to scrummaging. The Lions have a highly respected pack. I have to give them credit, it's guys who work hard... they have good discipline at scrum time.
"I think they've grown [as a team] and as a pack they scrum well as a unit, so we'll have to be ready on Saturday."
The Stormers are expecting a fierce battle up front, especially since the news broke that the Lions will have Springbok enforcer Willem Alberts back after an injury layoff.
Stormers assistant coach Norman Laker said Alberts' presence will be a further boost to the home side.
"He will add a lot of experience towards their pack. He's a phenomenal player who's played quite a few Test matches for South Africa. So he will bring a lot of calmness and his ball-carrying ability is phenomenal.
"He's still one of the better ball-carriers in the competition, so they'll be delighted to have him back but we're also looking forward to playing the best possible Lions team they put out at Ellis Park," Laker said.
Both teams have started the competition with two defeats which adds to the importance of the encounter.
The Stormers team will be announced on Friday, with Saturday's clash scheduled for 13:30.