Pieter-Steph du Toit is hoping for a successful 2015 season with the Sharks and Springboks.
The 22-year-old lock has recovered from a season-ending knee injury sustained during a Sharks training session in March last year.
It was a big blow for Du Toit, who had made his Springbok debut on the 2013 end-of-year tour, with appearances off the bench against Wales and France. He was expected to gain more valuable experience at Test level in 2014, ahead of the all-important 2015 World Cup, but instead had to focus on his rehabilitation.
'It was frustrating,' Du Toit told SARugbymag.co.za. 'I thought I was going to have a good Super Rugby season with Jake White here [as director of rugby]. It was tough sitting on the sidelines and watching the team play, although it was nice to spend more time at home with my family.
'I did a lot of work with [Sharks biokineticist] Jimmy Wright in the gym, which helped a lot. I worked on the knee and did a lot of core work, so hopefully that will prevent me from getting injured again.'
Du Toit modestly says his first goal for the upcoming season is to regain the Sharks No 5 jersey, but admits he has an eye on the World Cup in England.
'It was an unbelievable feeling making my Bok debut in 2013, the best moment of my career. It would be great to be selected for the World Cup squad and hopefully we can go all the way and win the tournament.'
For now, though, Du Toit's top priority is to get back to full-match fitness, by training hard and getting some game time against French and European champions Toulon at the Stade Mayol on 5 February.
'We've done a lot of running at pre-season training, but also play a lot of practice matches with two Sharks teams,' he said. 'I'm really looking forward to the game against Toulon. They are the best team in Europe and a club I've always dreamed of playing for when my career in South Africa is over. It will be interesting to see how they do things over there and how different it is from here.'
Du Toit is optimistic about the Sharks' chances in Vodacom Super Rugby this year.
'I think we have a good draw. We are used to touring [Australia and New Zealand] in May and while there are no easy games in this tournament, you can either be negative about it or go out there with a positive mindset and enjoy the rugby.'
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images