CAPE TOWN – Independent Media’s Zaahier Adams takes a closer look at the battle royale that is expected to explode between the two respective second rows when the Stormers and Bulls lock horns at Newlands on Saturday.
Stormers: Eben Etzebeth and JD Schickerling
The pair have played together only three times this season and it is worth noting the Stormers enjoyed a three-game winning streak during this period with victories over the Sharks, Lions - Etzebeth came on in the second half - and the Jaguares.
Their presence was certainly felt in the South African derbies where their immense physicality came to the fore. Against the Jaguares, Etzebeth kept his good mate Tomas Lavanini quiet before leaving the field at halftime with a head knock that limited his participation on the Stormers’ Australasian tour.
The Springbok enforcer also missed the season opener against the Bulls at Loftus where the visitors’ lineout was horrendous. There was an immediate improvement upon Etzebeth’s return as the set-piece then transformed into one of the Stormers’ premier attacking weapons.
Schickerling is crucial at this point as he is often the driving force within the maul. The pair have enjoyed a solid break with Schickerling not playing since the Hurricanes match in Wellington a month ago now. He has now fully recovered from the shoulder injury that forced him to return home early and will be eager to get over his Bulls contemporaries after their dominance at Loftus.
Bulls: RG Snyman and Jannes Kirsten
The visitors may have been dealt a big blow when their captain and talisman Lood de Jager was forced to undergo a shoulder operation, effectively ruling him out of the entire Super Rugby season, but the Bulls are still able to field a mobile and athletic second-row pairing.
RG Snyman recently returned from injury and is finding the form that has made him such a menacing presence on the international scene, with the Bok lock keen to test himself against the Stormers’ powerhouse duo.
Kirsten, meanwhile, has showed in the last couple of matches that he can form a potent combination with Snyman since moving to No 4 from his regular position on the side of the scrum. This sets the scene for an almighty clash as the Bulls will be keen to remind their Cape rivals of how they were owned at line-out time at Loftus. With it being a World Cup year, the clash has extra spice as the second-rowers will also want to impress Bok coach Rassie Erasmus.
Snyman, though, has further personal motivation to come out on top on Saturday.
“It is going to be tough against the Stormers but I am looking forward to the game and I am expecting a good battle for the forwards,” Snyman said this week.
“I don’t think I have ever won a game at Newlands and the most intimidating thing about going there are their fans. They really get behind their team and that makes them difficult.”
The Bulls have not won a Super Rugby encounter at Newlands since 2011.
North vs South!— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) April 24, 2019
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