Bok debut beckons for Kitshoff

Beast Mtawarira is confident that fellow loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff will be a force to be reckoned with in Saturday’s third Test against Ireland, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.

Since the inclusion of Kitshoff in the Boks’ 31-man squad, the Boks have sought to outline their long-term plan for a young player who they believe could go on to become one of the great props of South African rugby.

Coach Allister Coetzee has also made no secret of the fact he would like Kitshoff to play his rugby in South Africa once he has completed his commitments to French club Bordeaux, where he has been a consistently impressive performer.

And while Kitshoff has been a member of previous Springbok squads, he has had to bide his time in order to earn his first Test cap. That moment is expected to arrive on Saturday, with the 24-year-old set to replace the injured Trevor Nyakane in the match 23.

Although Mtawarira has 77 Test caps to his name, and Kitshoff none, the former is only too aware of what the former Stormers star can produce.

‘Steven has been around for a while, he is an experienced loosehead now and I think going overseas has enabled him to learn a few tricks. We’re feeding off each other and I’m really excited to see him make his debut, I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of energy and be a real force on Saturday.

‘He know our systems very well and it’s not just been about him learning from me, but I’m also learning from him, he’s got a lot to offer,’ Mtawarira added.

Bok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot, who worked extensively with Kitshoff at Western Province and the Stormers, said he was also confident the talented front rower would be able to make the step up to Test rugby.

‘There is a real difference from Super Rugby and French first-league rugby to Test rugby, that can’t be underestimated. The levels for making errors is so much smaller, and the opposing teams all have outstanding coaching teams who do their homework. If you have a lack of detail to what you do, they’ll catch you out.

‘Kitsie will need to temper his enthusiasm, but it’s also up to us as coaches to ensure we guide him in terms of what we want to see him execute. We can see how enthusiastic he is, but we need that to be channelled into a physical and well-executed performance this weekend.’

The Boks weren’t entirely pleased with their scrumming performance against Ireland last Saturday, particularly on the visitors' ball, but Mtawarira said they had addressed these shortcomings.

‘Ireland are a formidable side up front, but I think as a team we have been improving in that department. There were some scrums where we could have done better, but it’s a continual process that we’re working on. We’ve been happy with the way it’s been going on our ball, but not so happy on theirs.

‘Two Tests should be enough for us to get that synergy at scrum time and now we need to step up and deliver on Saturday. It hasn’t been perfect, but we want to become the best scrummaging side in world rugby, and that’s the high standard that we’re aiming for.’

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis