Springbok Showdown will have plenty to look forward to with head-to-head battles
Elton Jantjies vs Damian Willemse
This match-up is one that words alone would not do justice to describe.
While we all know Jantjies’ attacking ability (and that alone makes this battle one to look forward to) and while we all should know that he doesn’t have to prove himself anymore - at least not to anyone who isn’t too blinded by bias - it will be good to see how he plays commander in a team of fresh talent and valuable experience.
Why do I say that words wouldn’t do this head-to-head justice? Imagine the two guys going up against one another here, there’s just too much excitement.
On the other hand, Willemse has a mean step and possesses pace that can humiliate defences. But today will be a good opportunity for him to also show that he can take control of his team’s operations. He’s good, nobody can dispute that, but maybe seeing him shine in a different way today, as a general, is something to look forward to.
Ox Nche vs Steven Kitshoff
So far it seems like Nche’s move to the Sharks has done him a lot of good. In fact, it wouldn’t be too much to say that the way in which he has filled Tendai Mtawarira’s boots should surely have put him back on the Bok radar. His explosiveness, pace and ball skills are unmatched by any other front-rower in the country, and that work rate and attitude make him even more of a joy to watch.
Nche and Kitshoff are on different roads - the one is trying to play himself back onto the national watchlist, and the other aiming to work his way back to his best after undergoing surgery in March. Luckily for the World Cup-winning loosehead, however, his rehabilitation period was during lockdown, so he didn’t lose any action due to the pectoral tear. Knowing his quality and abilities, Kitshoff’s only goal this weekend should be to take a step closer to his best form.
Bongi Mbonambi vs Scarra Ntubeni
Now, this should be good.
The way Mbonambi played his way into being South Africa’s No 1 hooker was nothing short of amazing. He was huge for the Boks last year, dethroning Malcolm Marx, and during the World Cup he was an absolute beast. He’s played a big role for the Stormers as their first-choice hooker over the years as well.
Now, exactly because of the previous sentence, Ntubeni should want to go out there today and really take the challenge to his Stormers mate. As a hooker, Ntubeni certainly has talent, but injury has been an all too frequent visitor to him over the years. The one thing he really needs is an extended run, and the opportunity to go up against the Stormers’ incumbent and SA’s top hooker will give him the perfect opportunity to again show the country what he can do when not nursing niggles.
Frans Steyn vs Rikus Pretorius
Ah, Frans Steyn, the one player where the phrase ‘Jack of all trades’ is applicable without it being even remotely insulting.
The utility back can, of course, fulfil a number of roles and the two-time World Cup-winner might just want to use this run-out to show that he can still bring something to SA rugby.
Pretorius, on the other hand, is a player who will want to use this opportunity to show a dimension he can add to the game.
From his days with the Junior Boks, we know his quality that physicality, his hard-running ways, basically everything we perhaps, until now, haven’t really had a chance to see with the Stormers. But what better way to show us that he’s more than just a junior sensation than during (televised) national trials?
Sanele Nohamba vs Herschel Jantjies
Anybody who watched the Junior Boks’ famous win against New Zealand last year - in which Nohamba came off the bench to slot a few late penalties - would have recognised that the youngster has composure. But those who saw him with the Sharks earlier this year would also know that he offers much, much more than just cool nerves. Today - especially going up against Jantjies - is the ultimate chance to offer a refresher course to anybody who may have forgotten that.
For me, the focus today won’t so much be on Jantjies - the whole rugby world knows what he’s about - but more on Nohamba, a young talent who, if his displays for the Junior Boks and the Sharks were anything to go by, definitely has a big future.
Jantjies has spoken about the opportunities the Showdown will give players, and for him in particular it will be an opportunity to gain some valuable minutes and work his way back to his World Cup best.