Rugby writers Jacques van der Westhuyzen (forwards) and Wynona Louw (backs) take a closer look at six big derby duels ...
Bongi Mbonambi v Malcolm Marx
With Adriaan Strauss now retired from international rugby the Springbok No 2 jersey is up for grabs and the front-runners to claim it are Mbonambi and Marx, who’ll certainly want to get the better of each other.
Both men are in superb form and will be key in so many aspects of the game. Most crucially, they will have to find their man in the lineouts, especially those put-ins close to the opposition team’s line when they want to set up a driving maul. Poor throw-ins, and thus a turnover, will be pounced on by the opposition.
Also, both Mbonambi and Marx have proved they are powerful ball-carriers, regularly taking their team over the gain-line, while their stealing ability on the ground is not to be scoffed at. There’s really not much separating them.
Pieter-Steph du Toit v Franco Mostert
Like the battle at hooker, there’s also a fierce tussle on the go for the Bok No 5 jumper. Du Toit has probably got his nose in front of the rest, but Mostert brings his own set of assets to the race. He will want to make a big statement.
Du Toit is all the all-powerful, all-involved lock, a man who carries strongly, puts in the big tackles and wins lineout ball... a player who’s always in the action. But Mostert, let’s be honest, is exactly the same. He might not have Du Toit’s size, but his engine never tires, he carries regularly and often is his team’s biggest tackler. What a battle awaits.
Linked to the two men at hooker, their one-on-one duel in the lineouts also promises to be a thriller.
Nizaam Carr v Jaco Kriel
Both men have aspirations of playing regularly for the national team, so again it’s a matter of trying to get more ticks behind their name than the other man.
Carr has been on the sidelines for two weeks as Cobus Wiese has worn the No 6 jumper, and today he has to man up to Kriel, the hard-running, explosive dynamo of the Lions, who’s been in excellent form this season. It’s a big ask for Carr, who is seemingly still unsure what his best position is – No 8, blindside or openside?
There will be energy aplenty in both men though, who know full well how important their role is today – not only in winning ruck ball, but in slowing it down too, in order to prevent the opposition from playing the fast-paced game they’ve employed this year.
Robert du Preez v Elton Jantjies
The battle of the generals is always going to be an important one, and in this match, probably even more so. The Stormers’ Robert du Preez has been in fine form this season, ticking all the boxes that a flyhalf should, plus a few extras.
He’s been instrumental for the Cape side with his reliable goal kicking, fine distribution, including some brilliant inside and skip passes that have put a number of his men away, while he’s also showed that he’s not an only-do-what-I-must pivot with some great kicks in behind opposition defences and corner kicks that would make even Elton Jantjies jealous. And he’s run in a couple of good tries himself.
Jantjies, who was undoubtedly South Africa’s form Super Rugby No 10 last season, remains a gem for the Lions as he continuously launches so many of their attacks.
His ability to spot and exploit space, combined with his hands, stepping and pace make him one to watch for Robbie Fleck’s men.
Dan du Plessis v Rohan Janse van Rensburg
It’s been a solid season for the Stormers’ Dan du Plessis so far, and he’s settled well at centre alongside EW Viljoen. And while Viljoen has been setting the midfield alight with with great-to-watch runs and superb offloads, Du Plessis’ most oustanding contribution has been his top-notch defence.
But that doesn’t mean that his carrying and passing game hasn’t been up there.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg, on the other hand, has produced powerful midfield displays and it’s his ball-carrying ability, coupled with his knack for breaking through defences and smashing stats in the metres-made department that have made him a standout.
His high work-rate, fine running lines and physicality, of course, complete his all-round game.
SP Marais v Andries Coetzee
SP Marais has been phenomenal since joining the Stormers during the pre-season, and Andries Coetzee, who has always been the ‘quiet’ one in a star-studded, flashy Lions backline, has produced consistently good performances this year.
His counter-attacking ability, his pinpoint kicking, his huge carries and metres gained, as well as his passing has been unmissable. And he also knows how to make his way through defenders.
Marais has been massive in the Stormers’ attacking cause with his sniping runs from the back, his gap-spotting and his offloading game, while he also comes in handy when you need to slot a 50-metre penalty.