Durban - Springbok and Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit hopes he can make an immediate impact when he returns to the field this season following a long-term injury.
The 22-year-old endured a frustrating 2014 season as a serious knee injury suffered in March kept him out for most of the year.
However, the young second-rower, who has two Springbok Test caps to his name, is feeling confident after making good progress during the Sharks pre-season training.
"It was a bit frustrating last year... seeing the guys enjoy themselves on the field, while I was forced to watch from the sidelines," Du Toit told MyPlayers.co.za.
"To ease the frustration, I spent as much time with the team as possible. It felt good being in the environment. I also spent a lot of time with my family back on the farm in Riebeek-Kasteel. They offered a great support group and we did a lot together.
"Being back at training feels really good," Du Toit continued. "Everyone is upbeat ahead of Super Rugby, and Brendan Venter has implemented great structures. We're working hard and buying into his plan as a team. We're aiming to do really well this year."
Du Toit has been based in Durban since 2011, when he made the move to the east coast from Boland.
He's experienced a rapid rise through the structures at the Sharks, making his Super Rugby debut in 2012, only his second year after school.
He hopes to continue where he left off.
"I want to earn my place back in the Sharks' Super Rugby team. I really enjoy the competition, so I have to prove I belong back in the side with good form and consistency," said Du Toit. "If I can do that, I hope to be part of the Springbok squad this season, especially in a World Cup year. That will be an amazing experience."
Although he's just 22, Du Toit already has a plan for life after rugby. He wants to be part of the family farming business, where they produce olives and grapes.
"Although I was injured last year, I got to learn a lot about the family business back at the farm. It's definitely something I want to be involved in once I retire from rugby," said Du Toit.
"I also realise the importance of having a qualification behind your name, so I'm busy with B.Com studies through UNISA. I do admit, it's tough balancing a rugby career with your studies, especially when you have to travel all over the place, but hopefully, I can complete my qualification in the near future."
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