Lions prop Sti Sithole is hoping to get another start when they front up against Ulster in their final United Rugby Championship game of the current European tour on Friday, ahead of the upcoming international break.
Having played off the bench in the Lions’ opening two games against Zebre and Scarlets, Sithole finally got a shot at starting in last week’s narrow loss to Glasgow Warriors after previous starter Ruan Dreyer picked up a knock and was unavailable for selection.
He fronted up with former Springbok veteran Jannie du Plessis, who also received his first start in what was largely seen as a rotational change with regular Carlu Sadie on the bench, with both putting in a superb shift as they dominated the Warriors pack.
Sithole couldn’t hide his admiration for Du Plessis and the invaluable experience he was bringing to the team, and he looked forward to an interesting match-up against Ulster this weekend, explaining that the team’s full focus was on themselves and not the tough opposition.
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“I think the whole squad is learning from him (Du Plessis), especially the props,” Sithole said.
“It’s funny because I used to watch him as a youngster at school and now I am playing with him, but he brings a lot to the pack and we value him a lot.
“I think our focus is on what we can control. It is a new competition so I think it’s a bit pointless concentrating on other factors other than what we do, so we’re sticking to what we can control and our preparation.”
If Dreyer is still not back to full fitness it is more than likely that Sithole will get his second start on Friday, and he will probably line up alongside Jaco Visagie at hooker – as he has started all three games so far – and Carlu Sadie who should be back in the run on team.
Sithole will be excited to be back on normal grass, after playing on the artificial 4G pitch at Scotstoun Stadium last weekend, though he did admit there weren’t too many differences.
“I do definitely prefer natural grass,” Sithole admitted.
“But it is not that big a difference. I think the biggest difference is the load on your calves. I think you have to use slightly shorter studs because they don’t dig in as deep on an artificial pitch.
“But everything else stays as normal. We keep to our processes as normal and we scrum as normal, no matter what surface it is.”
The action kicks off at 8:30pm on Friday night.