SA Sevens Star and Youngest Sharks Super Rugby Member Tipped As Vodacom Cup Players of the Week

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Wed, 12/03/2014 - 17:28
  • Ruwellyn Isbell
  • Thomas du Toit

Each week we will feature emerging young players from the North and the South Sections who are making their way up the rugby ladder. This week we look at a speedy wing and a strong prop – Ruwellyn Isbell (Steval Pumas) and Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks XV).

Vodacom Cup Rising Star (No 3) – Ruwellyn Isbell (Steval Pumas)

With speed to burn and a great swerve, winger Ruwellyn Isbell could be the Steval Pumas’ go-to man in the coming weeks as the men from Mpumalanga look to build on their impressive start to the Vodacom Cup this year.
Isbell, who turned 21 on 17 February, has been around for a while but only got his first taste of senior provincial 15-a-side rugby last weekend in Kempton Park.
He was born in Somerset East in 1993, where Isbell attended Gill Primary School before moving north to the famous Grey College in Bloemfontein, from where he made the Free State side to the Coca-Cola Under-18 Craven Week in 2011.
Isbell and his Grey College team-mate Jan Serfontein were two of the Cheetahs’ stars at the Coca-Cola Craven Week and the speedy winger even ran in a try in the final match as the Free Staters were crowned unofficial champions of the tournament.

After the Craven Week in Kimberley, Isbell was selected for the SA Schools team in 2011, but sadly missed out on representing his country against France that year because of an untimely injury.
A year later though, Isbell – who starred for the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-19s in 2012 – made his Springbok Sevens debut. He has three HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments under the belt – in 2012 in Gold Coast, Dubai and Port Elizabeth – and was one of the stars of the team who won the gold medal at the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia.

At 1.78m tall and weighing in at just under 90kg, Isbell is just slightly smaller than Springbok wing Bryan Habana (1.80m and 94kg). Like Habana, he is also a very strong and balanced runner with ball in hand.

Vodacom Cup Rising Star (No 4) – Thomas du Toit ( Sharks XV)

A former Western Province Coca-Cola Craven Week and SA Schools prop, Thomas du Toit decided to head north to Durban at the end of last season and has been rewarded by making his senior provincial debut for the Cell C Sharks XV in the Vodacom Cup last weekend.

At 18, Du Toit is one of the youngest players to ever play in the Vodacom Cup – he was born on 5 May 1995, which is less than two months before Francois Pienaar famously lifted the Webb Ellis Cup at Ellis Park in 1995. The Sharks had to get special clearance from SARU to be able to field Du Toit in senior competitions in line with the BokSmart requirements for young front rankers.

But even though the young prop is a big unit at 1.87m tall and over 120kg, he is very mobile and fast. In fact, Du Toit reminds one a lot of one of the stars of the 1995 Springbok side, loosehead prop Os du Randt, who went on to play 80 Tests for South Africa between 1994 and 2007.

And it was probably the similarities in size and mobility between Du Toit and Du Randt, who was coached by the Cell C Sharks’ Director of Rugby Jake White at the Boks from 2004 to 2007, that saw the young prop make the KwaZulu-Natalians’ wider Vodacom Super Rugby squad.

Du Toit went to Paarl Boys’ High School, a famous prop factory who produced the likes of Gurthrö Steenkamp and Frans Malherbe in recent years, and in the previous century front rankers such as Piet “Spiere” du Toit, whose grandson is Pieter-Steph du Toit, as well as brothers Boy and Fanie Louw.

Last weekend in the Cell C Sharks XV’s Vodacom Cup opener against the Border Bulldogs in East London, Du Toit was sent on as a replacement shortly after the break – and he got his first try at senior level 14 minutes later.
He is eligible for the South African Under-20 team this year and in 2015 and looks set to make a big mark in Durban in the coming months, where he will no doubt learn heaps from the Cell C Sharks’ three Springbok props in Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and Lourens Adriaanse.

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