Captain Kitshoff an Officer and a Gentleman

Captain Kitshoff an Officer and a Gentleman

DHL Stormers stars Evan Roos and Warrick Gelant have hogged the headlines this season but captain Steven Kitshoff has been the driving force in the Cape side’s quest for the United Rugby Championship title.

‘He’s absolutely perfect,’ coach John Dobson told the URC. ‘He puts his body out there for the team but also meticulously takes notes in team meetings, organises the team social, is cheerful, positive, engaging, and gets a good balance between the fun and the professionalism.

‘He’s an absolute star - an officer and a gentleman, as they say. There’s just not a bad thing you can ever say about Steven Kitshoff.’

Dobson’s ringing endorsement of the Springbok loosehead prop would not be echoed by any one among the number of tightheads that have felt the back of Kitshoff’s head on their sternum this season.

Packing down in approximately 150 scrums during the course of 13 starts for the DHL Stormers, Kitshoff conceded a total of four scrum penalties. The 56-cap Bok juggernaut is an overwhelming force at the set piece in a DHL Stormers front row that at times has featured the all-Springbok combination of hooker Scarra Ntubeni and tighthead Frans Malherbe.

While Kitshoff also plays a prominent role for the South African Shield champions as a potent ball-carrier in attack and a turnover titan in defence, he offers the most value in an area that is less tangible.

‘He’s an exceptional leader,’ said the DHL Stormers coach. ‘He's very good at keeping his players calm and has the unlimited respect of his teammates as a person.

'That’s the thing about Kitsy and Frans, their big thing as leaders is looking forward and making sure everyone around them is calm.’

The value of composure to the DHL Stormers cannot be overstated as their campaign was fraught with disruptions. They twice faced Edinburgh, first in October and then again in last week’s quarter-final, and only Roos, Gelant and Rikus Pretorius started both matches.

Discipline was key to the effectiveness of a sometimes patchwork team and the DHL Stormers finished among the three least-penalised teams in the URC.

‘Kitsy is very good with understanding where the referee is,’ added Dobson. ‘He’s an international prop who has played in a World Cup final, so he knows where refs are going.’

With the margins narrowing in the playoffs, knowing where Scottish referee Mike Adamson is will be critical when Kitshoff leads the DHL Stormers out against Ulster at DHL Stadium on Saturday to fight for a place in the final.

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