4 battles that can influence Stormers, Bulls Super Rugby Unlocked clash
CAPE TOWN - Both teams are loaded with Springboks, but who will have the bragging rights between the Bulls and Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (7pm kick-off)?
Here are four major individual battles that the Bulls have to conquer if they hope to continue their march to the Super Rugby Unlocked title
Trevor Nyakane v Steven Kitshoff
Trevor Nyakane underlined his importance to the Bulls against the Sharks. Having been ‘rested’ on the bench, the Springbok tighthead prop replaced Marcel van der Merwe in the first half and immediately made an impact. Sharks No 1 Ox Nche had won a few scrum penalties against Van der Merwe, but was rumbled backwards by Nyakane.
He will face a tougher proposition on Saturday in the shape of Steven Kitshoff, who will captain the Stormers in place of the injured Siya Kolisi.
Kitshoff missed last week’s Pumas game due to a Covid-19-related situation, so he will be keen to continue his impressive early season form.
Nyakane is pushing hard for Frans Malherbe’s Bok No 3 jersey for next year’s Lions tour, so who better than Kitshoff - who will take over Tendai Mtawarira’s No 1 jersey - to prove his point against
If Nyakane can earn a few kickable penalties in the scrums, Morné Steyn will set their team up for victory.
Jason Jenkins v Salmaan Moerat
Having played in Japan in recent years, Jason Jenkins has made Bok coach Jacques Nienaber take notice with several industrious performances before he returns to the Far East next month.
A No 4 lock is not usually known for stealing the opposition’s line-outs, but Jenkins has won quite a few against the throw, while also being a safe pair of hands. He has been a real physical presence on defence, and even broke the line to set up a try for Ruan Nortje against Griquas.
But now he comes up against a similar ‘hard-hitter’, Stormers No 4 Salmaan Moerat. The Paarl youngster is a specialist in making ‘ball-and-all’ tackles, while he loves clearing out rucks too.
A key skill that has been evident in his game has come through in the line-outs, where Moerat has won a number of the opposition’s throw-ins.
These are two tough guys against each other, so who will blink first?
Ivan van Zyl v Herschel Jantjies
Ivan van Zyl is one of the forgotten scrum-halves of South African rugby, but the arrival of Fourie du Preez at Loftus Versfeld seems to have breathed new life into his game.
Van Zyl has been arguably the sharpest No 9 in Super Rugby Unlocked up to now (Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar was also really good before his injury), and made a big statement with his display against the Sharks.
He was considerably better than direct rival Sanele Nohamba, who would probably have become a Springbok this year if it wasn’t for Covid-19.
In contrast, Herschel Jantjies has not yet reached the heights that he achieved in 2019 and being part of the World Cup-winning squad, having sustained a broken leg in March.
Nohamba got the better of him in the Springbok Showdown, and his service and option-taking hasn’t been up to his own high standards - issues he will want to fix on Saturday.
Stedman Gans v Dan du Plessis
Jake White remarked on TV this week that Sharks No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe is probably still looking for Stedman Gans, who sent him onto his haunches with an audacious side-step at Loftus last week to score a try.
The energy that the Blitzbok star has in his feet is evident every time he touches the ball. Gans keeps it in two hands, uses his footwork and pace and looks for a teammate all in one go, which makes him a nightmare to defend against.
He came out on top in his duel with Springbok star Lukhanyo Am last week, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with a man who has almost the same type of skill-set in Stormers No 13 Dan du Plessis.
Du Plessis appears to have put his injury woes behind him with a few classy touches in recent weeks.
He is more direct than Gans as he looks to use his 97kg frame to good effect, but he also possesses the creative flair that made his father Michael such an outstanding footballer.