The duo was set for a mouth-watering tussle before two-time champion Murray had to pull out because of an ankle injury.
The country’s hopes of keeping the title in South African hands now rests on Olympic bronze medallist Schoeman.
Even before Murray’s withdrawal was confirmed yesterday, Schoeman was hellbent on breaking his compatriot’s vice-grip like hold on the opening leg of the World Cup series.
“I’ve been second the last two years, this year it would hopefully be third time lucky or third-time hard work,” Schoeman said.
“Hopefully I can take top step, I’ve been working hard so let’s see what happens out there.
“I’ve also had my unfortunate injuries and illnesses in the lead-up but it is important to focus on the positives which I have done.”
Murray picked up an ankle niggle during a training camp in Namibia ahead of the World Cup and was initially pencilled in for the race where he was looking to race over the swimming and cycling legs.
While Schoeman has been denied an arm wrestle with Murray, he will not have a shortage of motivation to go for gold on Sunday.
“If I win, then it is maximum Olympic points and of course that is also what I am after this year,” Schoeman said.
“I try not to think about it too much (the number of points to secure an Olympic spot), I want to go into every race performing the best that I can,” he said.
“If I have a good season this year then I can pick my races very selective in the lead up to the Olympic Games and I will be a lot more relaxed.”
He is ranked 19th on the Olympic qualifying list while Murray is third.
Before Murray’s withdrawal, Schoeman said he believed the race boasted a stronger field than previous years which would spice things up ahead of a long season.
“It’s a stronger field than previous years, so it’s quite good to see that,” Schoeman said.
“It’s always good to have a competitive field because you can see where you are in terms of fitness.
“It’s also good to feel those nerves again after a long off-season, but it’ll be good to see how the off-season has gone.”
Portugal’s Joao Silva, who finished 2018 in 15th position in the WTS rankings will be among the top challengers while they can also expect Spain’s Vicente Hernandez to push for a podium place.
Former junior world champion Wian Sullwald will be looking to make a strong return to racing after taking a break to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder from a farm attack at the end of 2017.
He took a break from the sport following last year’s Commonwealth Games and was back to fight for an Olympic qualifying spot.
Sullwald shared the podium with Murray and Schoeman for a South African sweep during the 2017 World Cup race in Cape Town.
In the women’s race, South African stalwart Gillian Sanders and Simone Ackermann will be looking to break the foreign stranglehold on the event.
They will line up against Murray’s Dutch fiancé, Rachel Klamer, who is the top-ranked athlete in the elite women’s race.
Youth Olympic champion Amber Schlebusch will be looking to show she can hold her own in her first World Cup race against the senior women.@ockertde