It’s a great pity that fans can’t be at Newlands on Saturday to witness what I reckon will be a Barbarians-style festival of rugby.
The best South African rugby has to offer will be going all-out to put their skills on display, when Team Green tackles Team Gold in a match where the result is as important as the team that finished runners-up in (insert any sports event here) last year.
Billed as a Springbok trial – and that might be a bit premature – there will be a number of players with a point to prove.
Here’s my breakdown of things to look out for in the biggest match at Newlands this year:
PLAYERS WHO WILL BE MISSED
Two things stood out from Super Fan Saturday last weekend.
The first was plain for all to see – the Bulls are back.
The second is that Blitzboks stars looking to cross codes stood out.
One of them was Bulls winger Kurt-Lee Arendse. So impressive was he in the win over the Sharks that he was called up to replaced the injured Seabelo Senatla in the Green team.
For whatever reason, Arendse missed his flight and was replaced. Groot pity.
And spare a thought for Senatla – SA’s top Sevens try scorer just can’t catch a break in XVs rugby.
On Arendse’s inside, Stedman Gans also caught the eye. Another Sevens convert, Gans will also not be involved on Saturday.
In keeping with the Sevens theme, nog ‘n Sevens star looking to make the breakthrough and will not take part in this clash is Stormers youngster Angelo Davids.
After last weekend, I was excited to see some Sevens manne in this game… unfortunately for them and fans, that won’t be the case.
CHECK THEM OUT
One of the biggest one-on-one duels on the day will take place in the middle of the front row. With one Bok cap to his name, Scarra Ntubeni will come up against the man keeping him on the bench at the Stormers and also out of the Bok team, Bongi Mbonambi.
It looked like Ntubeni had a good lockdown. From my vantage point last weekend, it looked like he lost some weight, which will make him more mobile as a hooker.
Mbonambi is tough and seeing the two go head to head will be interesting, to say the least.
With Malcolm Marx having left the country for Japan, there is perhaps an opportunity for Ntubeni this season to force his way into the top two when it comes to the national team.
And it all starts with a strong performance at Newlands on Saturday.
There is a big opportunity for locks in South Africa this year.
Springboks Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and RG Snyman – all of whom were involved in last year’s World Cup final win over England in Japan – are sidelined due to injuries.
The door is wide open and the Springboks are looking for warriors to step up.
Of the locks involved in the match, Gold members Marvin Orie and Salmaan Moerat make for an interesting combination and will be pushed hard by Green combo JD Schickerling and Hyron Andrews.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus publicly backed the Green team’s Elton Jantjies for the Bok No.10 jumper in the absence of injured first-choice pivot Handre Pollard.
And that means the Gold team’s Damian Willemse, who is expected to be his understudy in the national team, will have a point to prove.
Before last year’s World Cup, Erasmus preached that Willemse should be seen as a fullback.
That was last year and the thinking was clear for the tournament – he needed to be versatile to give the Boks more options after his late call-up.
But Willemse is undoubtedly seen as the future in the flyhalf berth and will be looking to show glimpses of that future when he squares off against the man expected to wear the Bok No.10 jumper at the Rugby Championship later this year.
I don’t expect Willemse to jump ahead of Jantjies as first choice this year, but he has the ability to push the Lions man all the way.
Personally, I also hope we get to see a few minutes of Kade Wolhuter, who was a late addition to the Green team’s bench.