Robbie Kempson says Sharks prop Thomas du Toit has made a successful transition from loosehead to tighthead prop. DYLAN JACK reports.
The former Sharks and Western Province prop was critical of Du Toit’s transition earlier in the year, following the 23-year-old’s trial-by-fire against experienced Lions loosehead Jacques van Rooyen in the opening round of Super Rugby.
However, Kempson, who won back-to-back Currie Cup titles with the Sharks in 1995 and 1996, spoke glowingly to SARugbymag.co.za about Du Toit’s progress.
‘He has done an incredible amount of work and he should take a lot of the accolades,’ Kempson said. ‘From where he started compared to where he is now, he is a different prop and he can hold his own on the tighthead without question.
‘I still think he might battle against your more experienced loosehead, but certainly, he has come a long way. He has put in the hard yards and it has paid dividends. If he gets his opportunity on the Springboks’ end-of-year tour he would deserve it but if he doesn’t, I would think that by next year he will have the opportunity.’
Kempson says the Sharks, and Du Toit in particular, will have something to prove against the Province front-rankers after being given a tough time in last year’s final, which Province won 33-21.
‘Obviously, Du Toit wants to show that he is up to scratch and he can fill that void. [WP tighthead] Wilco [Louw] demolished them last year so he will want to put that straight. It will be an interesting contest and both packs will have a good go at each other.’
After playing as a loosehead against Louw last year, Du Toit will face a different prospect against loosehead Alistair Vermaak, who Province coach John Dobson has hailed as an underrated player.
‘Under-the-radar would be a nicer way of putting it,’ Kempson said. ‘Ali is effortless. He generally dominates his opposite number or at least gets the upper hand. But he is not a flashy type individual or player. He almost goes unnoticed with some of the work he puts in. So he has definitely been a bit of an unsung hero for Dobbo’s side.’
Kempson added that with both packs fired up he expects the scrums to be inaccurate to begin with, but fears the Sharks could be in for déjà vu should Louw begin to dominate later in the match.
‘Unfortunately, when it comes to these things it will be quite messy. They will be going hammer and tongs at each other and that often leads to collapsed scrums and resets.
‘[Referee] Jaco Peyper does an incredible amount of homework when it comes to the scrums so he will have a hand in that. I think there will be a lot of clarity when it comes to the beginning of the match, as both sides will be having a crack.
‘The only thing perhaps in the Sharks favour is that they haven’t had many changes to their setup over the season whereas, even though [Province hooker] Bongi [Mbonambi] is a Springbok, he has not really been a part of the mix until last weekend.
‘That can be a subtle advantage for the Sharks when it comes to the complement of their side. But the way Wilco has gone and the way he can go, if he gets himself into the mood it could be a difficult game for the Sharks.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 22, 2018
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images