Springbok loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff says he will continue giving all he can to fill the boots of retired Tendai Mtawarira during the upcoming Lions series.
Kitshoff – who is one of the more experienced campaigners in Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s squad with 47 Test caps – was one of several locally based players who reported for duty at the team’s conditioning camp in Bloemfontein this past Sunday.
They immediately got down to business on Monday, looking to the Tests against Georgia on 2 and 9 July, and the three Tests against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday, 24 and 31 July and 7 August, respectively.
‘Back in 2009 I was still in Grade 11 so it was awesome as a kid watching “Beast” [Tendai Mtawarira], and I’ll try my best if I get selected for the Springboks to represent and uphold that jersey as best as I can,’ said Kitshoff.
‘It is always going to be one of the hardest tournaments any player will participate in. If you think about the British & Irish Lions and a Rugby World Cup, it is going to be up there with one of the toughest couple of weeks in your life.’
With big boots to fill after Mtawarira bowed out of the game with 117 Test caps following the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph, Kitshoff was full of praise for his former teammate and said his personal mission was to continue giving everything he could on the field.
‘Playing with Beast for a couple of years was a massive honour and it was a great privilege to learn from him and help out where I can,’ said Kitshoff.
‘We all know he is a great legend in the game and in South African rugby.
‘When it comes to my mental approach, it’s going to be similar. It is about doing my job as well as I can for the team and sacrificing myself for the Springbok and the greater good of the team.’
Kitshoff reacted to concerns that the Springboks would enter the Lions series less prepared than the opposition, saying: ‘We came together as a team this week, and some of the guys last week, but as Deon [Davids, Springbok assistant coach] said, we will take it day by day and get our stuff in order, especially the clarity and aspects we want to get right on the field so that we can try to play to our strengths as best as possible.
‘The Lions will bring a big challenge, but the South African forwards are also among the best.’
Zoning in on the British & Irish Lions, Kitshoff spoke highly of Irish tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong: ‘I think he is a very good tighthead. He has shown it over the last couple of years.
‘He has really represented Ireland very well, and in the previous British & Irish Lions series [in New Zealand in 2017] he played really well for the team.
‘I’ve known him since I was 20 years old. I played against him for the Junior Boks and I’ve had a couple of games against him since.
‘He is a world-class player, but I am not taking anything away from our tightheads at the Springboks. They are world-class players that can rock up any day and out-scrum the opposition.’
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