Sharks are on track – Thomas the tank engine
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!”
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.