Sharks vs British & Irish Lions: Key match-ups
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DURBAN – The Sharks host the British & Irish Lions in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening although the word “host” might be a tad inappropriate given the Shark Tank is 600km away!
Be that as it may, it is a huge game for the Durbanites and a wonderful opportunity to measure themselves against some of the best players in the world. Mike Greenaway looks at some of the key match-ups.
Curwin Bosch v Dan Biggar
IF Bosch feels he was wronged in not being picked for the 45-man Springbok squad then there can be no better opportunity to state his case to the Springbok wise men than in this match-up with the likely starting flyhalf for the Lions in the Test series. Biggar is eight years Bosch’s senior, has been capped 93 times for Wales and is in the best form of his career. He played a blinder for the Lions in their recent warm-up against Japan and if Bosch can impress against Biggar, it will go a long way to helping his team seriously challenge the Lions.
Ruben van Heerden v Adam Beard
In my opinion, the 23-year-old Van Heerden is unlucky to have never featured in the greater Springbok picture. Yes, South Africa is blessed with exceptional second-row talent, but for Van Heerden to not even make national training camps is surprising. He was a schoolboy star at Affies where he made SA Schools in 2015, and in 2017 he played four matches for the SA Under-20 side. From there his career on the national stage has stalled and he will want to prove that he has been given short shrift. His direct opponent, Beard, is just two years older than Van Heerden but has already played 25 times for Wales and is a towering force at 2.03m and 120 kgs.
Phepsi Buthelezi v Sam Simmonds
At the tender age of 22, Buthelezi has recently been named the Sharks’ Currie Cup captain, such is the faith coach Sean Everitt has in the up-and-comer. The former Durban High School pupil captained the unbeaten Sharks Under-19 side of 2018 under Everitt, so the coach obviously sees rich potential. The No 8 is up against one of the hungriest players in the entire Lions squad in Simmonds, the 26-year-old who is the European Player of the Year but can’t crack the nod for the England team. Eddie Jones pointedly won’t pick him, but Gatland has, and Simmonds wants to repay that faith. He is one heck of a player, having scored 21 tries for Exeter in the recent English Premiership.
Werner Kok vs Duhan van der Merwe
Duhan van der Merwe is certainly one that got away from South African rugby given his pedigree. He played SA Schools two years in a row (2012-2013) and then went straight into the SA Under-20 side. He was briefly at the Bulls but soon at Montpellier and then Edinburgh. He is relatively new to the Scotland team (10 caps) but Warren Gatland knows a good thing when he sees one… The task of containing the powerful product of Hoerskool Outeniqua is primarily the job of Blitzboks star Kok, who joined the Sharks a year ago with the ambition of playing for the fifteens Boks. He is some way off that goal but a convincing performance against the Lions (and Van der Merwe) can only advance his cause.