Tadhg Furlong says Steven Kitshoff has the potential to be equally influential in the Test series between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions as his predecessor ‘Beast’ Mtawarira was when the sides met 12 years ago.
At 23 years old and playing in just his 11th Test, Mtawarira demolished Phil Vickery in the first Test of the 2009 series, which set the platform for South Africa to take a 1-0 lead. It was a performance that will go down in folklore and long live in the memory of rugby enthusiasts.
And Furlong is expecting a similarly brutal contest this time around, especially having seen what one of the Springboks’ key men – Steven Kitshoff – can do up close many times over the years.
‘I first met Steven in U20s when we were playing in South Africa against their team and I kind of kept in contact with him ever since,’ Furlong said.
‘We toured there in 2016 with Ireland and again I would have caught up with him. They also came over I think in the November of 2018 and he’s done very, very well for himself.
‘He’s such a big player for them, a power athlete, physical, abrasive, strong in the scrum, he’s a really good player. He’s got plenty of experience, he’s started plenty of Tests for South Africa.
‘There’s plenty of experience there and he’s 28, 29 now and he’s up for his crack at the jersey. We’ve all seen there wasn’t really a starting front row for that South Africa team in the World Cup.
‘They kind of had 45 minutes and full change, that was the way it was. He’s a dynamic player. There’s kind of a little prop family going around in rugby, isn’t there?
‘We kind of recognise each other’s weirdness in a small little way, you even find yourself gravitating to the props here at the minute, it’s just one of those weird things.’
Furlong had started all three Tests four years ago as the Lions secured a historic draw with New Zealand, having started only nine games for his country before being called up.
With almost 50 Ireland caps to his name now, Furlong believes he is much more experienced and streetwise enough to know how to handle the Lions transition.
‘Four years ago I was 24 and I’d played very little games of rugby in reality, so even just from a game point, where I stand and where I do things coming into the camp,’ he said.
‘The last Tour was tough and it was enjoyable, it’s such a privilege to be part of and it’s such a unique experience in rugby and the way the game is today, it’s just different level,’ he added.
‘It’s just class, it’s unbelievable to be involved in it.’
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