VIDEO: Steven Kitshoff v Tadhg Furlong - the saga continues
Steven Kitshoff first encountered Tadhg Furlong almost a decade ago – at the 2012 Junior World Championship.
Now, nine years later, they are still going head-to-head – two key players in the forthcoming three-Test series between South African and the British & Irish Lions.
Kitshoff, speaking from the Bok training camp in Bloemfontein, said he was looking to renewing the rivalry with one of the game’s most powerful scrummagers.
The Irishman, Furlong, was on the winning side in the first encounter – when South Africa hosted the Under-20 tournament in 2012. The Baby Boks got off to a bad start, losing 19–23 to Ireland in their first match.
However, they won their remaining pool matches and finished top of their pool, before beating New Zealand 22–16 in the Final in Cape Town.
The two burly props’ next international encounter was when Kitshoff made his Springbok debut, off the bench, against Ireland at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, in June 2016 – a 19-13 win for South Africa.
A year later Ireland turned the tables when they smashed the Springboks 38-3 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, in a year-end Test.
Barring any injuries or selection surprises, the duo will go head-to-head at the Cape Town Stadium (July 24) and Soccer City in Soweto (July 31 and August 7).
The two are amazing athletes, given their size – Kitshoff coming in at 184 centimetres and 125kg, with Furlong measuring up at 184 centimetres and 119kg.
As two elite scrummagers, they both also possess good ball handling and running skills, while their statistics will often list breakdown turnovers – listing putting then them in the more commonly know category of ‘jackals’.
It is going to be one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the July and August series.
“The Lions will bring a big challenge, but the South African forwards are also among the best,” Kitshoff told a virtual media briefing.
The Bok prop is looking forward to his duels with his Irish counterpart, Furlong.
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“I think he is a very good tighthead,” the 29-year-old, 47-times capped Bok said.
“He has shown it over the last couple of years.
“He has really represented Ireland very well and in the previous British and Irish Lions Series [against New Zealand in 2017] he played really well for the team.”
Kitshoff spoke about the long-standing rivalry.
“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 tighthead props at the Springboks.
“They are world-class players that can rock up any day and out-scrum the opposition.”
Kitshoff was still at school when the B&I Lions last toured South Africa, but he knows the importance of a solid front row – given the demolition job his predecessor, Tendai Mtawarira, did on the tourists in 2009.
“Playing with Beast [Mtawarira] 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,” Kitshoff said of the now retired, capped a record 117-times, Bok prop.
“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.”
* Picture credit: @Springboks