In the build-up to the Currie Cup opener between the Sharks and the Pumas in Durban on Friday night, we take a look at four key battles which could be contested within the game.
Marius Louw v Wayne van der Bank
Louw has been an impressive mix of industrial strength, throwing himself into the physical collisions, and pleasing skills for the Sharks, and in the Unlocked competition had the fifth-most carries. Van der Bank has been a delight to watch as he has rewired the Pumas backline, and has shown his physicality by winning the third most tackles. He may be coming off the bench on Friday night, but such has been his impact that he will almost certainly come on and take on Louw in a thrilling head-to-head.
Thembelani Bholi v Phumzile Maqondwana
The 23-year-old Maqondwana has been in such powerful form lately in the back row for the Pumas that the Sharks can expect him to throw the kitchen sink and several other appliances at them. Bholi is a hardworking loose forward and he is going to need to be at his best to keep the powerhouse from the Eastern Cape in check.
Dylan Richardson v Francois Kleinhans
Retreaded hooker Richardson has been given a remit as openside flank and will have to neutralise former Sharks flank Kleinhans, who will definitely target the breakdowns hard even though he is playing eighthman. The Pumas were the most effective team at the rucks in Super Rugby Unlocked, with a 94% success rate, while the Sharks were towards the bottom of that ranking, which makes it likely the visitors will target them in that department at Kings Park on Friday night.
Curwin Bosch v Theo Boshoff
The Pumas flyhalf is fresh out of university where he played a starring role for Tuks in the Varsity Cup and, solid as he has been, Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse will be tempted to shout instructions down the radio when it comes to game management. Bosch, in contrast, has been an accomplished, polished general all year long. Given that the Pumas could well match the Sharks up front, the decision-making of the flyhalves will be crucial and Boshoff faces a big test in Durban.
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