By Nick Said
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Pieter-Steph du Toit says he feels physically and mentally refreshed ahead of the new Super Rugby season with the Stormers after being named South African Rugby Player of the Year for the third time in four years on Friday.
Flanker Du Toit, who is also the reigning World Rugby Player of the Year, played a key role in the Springboks lifting the World Cup in Japan last November at the end of a gruelling season, but some rest and recuperation has left him hungry to get back on the pitch.
"I had a long break, so I feel refreshed mentally and physically, and the motivation to do well will always be there," he told reporters. "I still have personal ambitions on and off the field and there is a lot left for me to achieve.
"I am trying to build up a legacy that everyone in South Africa can be proud of and leave a lot of good stuff for people to remember."
Du Toit, 27, is one of only a few senior Boks left playing Super Rugby but says it was a conscious decision to remain in South Africa, rather than chase a big pay-day in Europe or Japan.
"I’m really glad I had the opportunity to stay in South Africa, I am excited and quite optimistic for the new season (with the Stormers)," he said.
"I want to get picked for the British & Irish Lions tour (in 2021) and I was a bit scared that if I went overseas I might not be."
He expressed his delight at winning the South African Player of the Year award for the third time in four years, including back-to-back triumphs in 2018 and 2019.
"It’s nice to make it a consistent habit, because I never take anything for granted. The names (of previous winners) on the trophy are unbelievable. It is difficult to stand out as an individual, so I am honoured to win this.
"But I always try and be as humble as I can, and keep my feet on the ground. I can go into Super Rugby and miss a tackle, and people will say, ‘he’s back to that stage’."
As for this season, the Stormers’ last before a move from Newlands to the Cape Town Stadium, Du Toit believes they can create something special.
"I want to just enjoy my rugby, keep fully fit and strong, train hard and learn from whoever I can," he said.
The Stormers open their Super Rugby campaign against the Wellington Hurricanes from New Zealand at Newlands on Feb. 1.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)