All eyes will be on Stormers' flyhalf Damian Willemse (pictured) as well as Bulls no10 Handre Pollard. Photo: BackpagePix
There is something about today’s North versus South Super Rugby derby at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria (5.15pm kick-off) that has a feeling of a Springbok trial.

It will certainly be that way for young Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse, who will come face-to-face with Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard.

There have been many questions about Willemse’s readiness to play at the highest level and do so with the same flamboyance and skill that he has displayed particularly this year.

With the June series against England fast approaching, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will undoubtedly want to have the best of his players on form and what better way to test them against the might of the New Zealand, Australian and South African Super Rugby franchises.

Willemse has held his own in the contests against New Zealand teams but this will be the first time in his fledgling career that he will test his worthiness against Pollard who is showing glimpses of returning to his best form yet.

While Bulls coach John Mitchell has no doubt in his mind that Pollard would walk into the Springbok No10 jumper were the Springboks to play the English next weekend, he is also not oblivious to the danger that Willemse will pose if unattended.

“He’s a great attacking footballer and he will definitely test our line, we are well aware of that. We look forward to him playing flat, we’ve done a little bit of work on him as well so we know exactly what is coming and we have a good 10 as well,” said Mitchell.

Erasmus’s eyes will also be fixated on Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant and his continued growth as the best No15 in the country but there will also be some interesting duels in the midfield with Damian de Allende facing Burger Odendaal and EW Viljoen looking to test himself against Springbok Jesse Kriel who has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks.

Out wide on the wings the Stormers hold the aces with the two Springbok wings in Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds but they will have their hands full with Bulls wing Travis Ismaiel putting in performances worthy of him getting a look in at international level.

Up front Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane will face an acid test at tighthead when he comes up against another Springbok in Steven Kitshoff while Jason Jenkins will want to tower over the Stormers and Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit in the lineouts and forward battle exchanges.

But the reality of this derby will not escape the players and even though they want their names called out when Erasmus names his Bok squad in June, their immediate hurdle will be to help their respective teams to victory.


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