The Sharks sneaked a three-point win against the Stormers in the inaugural Rainbow Cup South Africa match, but bigger than the result was Pieter-Steph du Toit making it through 80 competitive minutes. The Springbok coaching staff will be delighted.
Du Toit, sensational at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2019 World Player of the Year, has not played in more than a year because of a career-threatening leg injury. Just to be on the field is an achievement, but for Du Toit to make the 80 minutes of what was a fast paced match on Cape Town’s very fast playing surface was the big rugby story to come out of Cape Town on Saturday.
Everything about the Rainbow Cup South Africa is preparation for the world champion Springboks three-Test series against the British & Irish Lions.
Warren Gatland’s touring squad gets announced on Thursday, 6th May, but closer to home it is about the form and fitness of the core group of Springboks players who thrashed England 32-12 in the final.
Du Toit was central to everything brilliant about the Springboks in 2018 and 2019 and his presence against the Lions will give the Springboks a massive advantage.
Just to see him on the field was a relief and to see him huffing and puffing his way through a typically bruising South African derby was a testament to Du Toit’s qualities as a player.
The Sharks won 33-30 but their coaching staff will know they got out of jail. The Stormers were the better team for huge chunks of the game and led 21-7 at half-time. They also suffered from two red cards, with the 20-minute red-card sin-binning used for the first time in South Africa. The Sharks took advantage of the card rulings and led 33-23 with five minutes to play.
The hosts came within three with a late converted try and created enough in the final two minutes that they came close to snatching a victory.
From a Boks perspective, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies was good but he left the field with a leg injury and the Stormers all-Boks front row of Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntunbeni, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe were outstanding. Siya Kolisi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe & Lukhanyo Am put in decent shifts and Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi was all-out attack.
Sharks lock Reniel Hugo scored three tries in a day that is unlikely to ever get better in his professional career.
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