Sharks are on track – Thomas the tank en­gine

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREENAWAY Dur­ban

IT would per­haps be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to call Thomas du Toit a Beast of a man, see­ing that he is en­joy­ing a good run of games at loose­head prop be­cause of in­jury to the fa­mous Beast Mtawarira.

“Thomas the Tank En­gine” is in­stead the name earned by the 127kg, 22-year-old loose­head prop, to the ex­tent that he has a pic­ture of a tank painted on the bakkie that he drives.

The real Beast has a neck strain and Thomas has been start­ing in the Sharks No 1 jersey for the last four games and he is en­joy­ing build­ing up a head of steam. This week­end the Tank is head­ing for El­lis Park and he says that the seven play­ers be­side him and be­hind him in the scrum have no fear of the Lions ma­chine await­ing them in Satur­day’s Su­per Rugby quar­ter-final in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“We are go­ing to give it our all, don’t worry about that,’ the smil­ing Du Toit says. “The pres­sure was on the Lions last week to top the log and we let them maybe be­cause we did not have the right mind­set, but that is not go­ing to hap­pen again this week.”

The Lions have won 13 Su­per Rugby games in a row at El­lis park and they have their sights on a home semi-final if they beat the Sharks.

“We have to give credit and re­spect when it is due and they have been play­ing very well at El­lis Park for some time, so it is up to us to bring it on .... and that is go­ing to in­spire us rather than put us off. Records are there to be bro­ken,’ the highly af­fa­ble Du Toit smiled.

He truly is a the most ge­nial of gi­ants, but he knows that he and his team­mates have to flick the switch come the first whis­tle.

“The whole psy­chol­ogy has changed,” says Du Toit, who played twice for the SA ‘ A’ side against the French Bar­bar­ians in June. “I imag­ine it is like a Test match when the only thing matters it that you win. It does not mat­ter how you get there, whether you are dirty or classy or what­ever. You do what­ever it takes.”

The Lions have said they are not go­ing to change any­thing about how they play. They are go­ing to at­tack and aim to score tries.

“And we are not go­ing to change how we play,” Du Toit said. “We are a little more con­ser­va­tive and we are go­ing to be play a very in­tense, struc­tured game, but are not go­ing to get loose and give them chances for the turnover ball they love (to counter at­tack). For us it is all about up­ping our in­ten­sity and cut­ting out our er­rors.”

Last week, in the first half be­tween the Lions and the Sharks, the home team dom­i­nated the set scrum and were given two penal­ties but in the sec­ond half, but it changed and the Lions were awarded three penal­ties by ref­eree Mar­ius van der Westhuizen.

He will again be the ref­eree be­tween the sides this Satur­day.

“When it comes to the scrums, you build a re­la­tion­ship with the ref­eree, you build the idea that you have dom­i­nance,” Du Toit said. “Some­times that re­la­tion­ship changes when you bring on your sub­sti­tutes. We had the dom­i­nance in the first half but the Lions ob­vi­ously had a chat at half-time and they came out and scrummed dif­fer­ently. We had two scrum penal­ties in the first half and they had three in the sec­ond half.

“Credit to them in that they changed the way they scrummed,” Du Toit said. “The pres­sure is on the front row for both sides be­cause how you dom­i­nate the scrum is how you present the base from which your half­backs can at­tack. You want to wheel the scrum to give your half-backs that plat­form to play and the op­po­si­tion is aim­ing for the op­po­site.”

Du Toit said that the set scrums were just about equal last week, but on Satur­day it could be dif­fer­ent.

“Our front row is ex­cited about this game, we know how we per­form has a big im­pact on what hap­pens later,” Du Toit said. ‘We can’t wait!”

PIC­TURE: EPA

STEAM­ING THROUGH: Sharks’ Thomas du Toit in­sist his team will not make the same mis­takes on Satur­day, in their Su­per Rugby quar­ter-fi­nals at El­lis Park, as they made this past week­end against the Lions.

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