Super Rugby

Battle of the halfbacks looms at Newlands

Pretoria - When the subject of Springbok selection comes up, you would think it would be an uncomfortable topic for the Bulls duo of Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier.

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After all, going into the World Cup year they were in the driving seat as the two Bok halfbacks and were destined to head to Japan.

But then their rotation system at the Bulls backfired. A third scrumhalf, Andre Warner, was given game time and rotating the three just seemed to count against form and momentum.

Papier admitted as much in interviews, but at the end of the season not one of the three was rewarded with a Bok cap.

Instead, it was left to the SA Young player of the year Herschel Jantjies to take his chance.

The Stormers halfback scored twice against Australia and a match-drawing try in Wellington in New Zealand and the rest is history.

Now the three halfbacks will be back on the field on Saturday when the Bulls head to Cape Town to take on the Stormers in their Vodacom Super Rugby clash and the battle of the nines is an eagerly anticipated one for both sides.

Jantjies was in superb form, scoring an intercept try against the Hurricanes and seems to have gone from strength to strength since his Bok call-up.

Which means the Bulls halfbacks have something to prove.

Speaking ahead of the clash this week, Van Zyl believes the game is an opportunity to go head to head with the Bok incumbent.

"I can't speak for Emmie, but I'm calm and excited for this year. Whatever is lying ahead, I need to be 100 percent focused at the Bulls and be the best I can be and improve every day. I need to be focused simply on what I can do to improve. It definitely gives you a little bit more focus. For me it feels like I'm starting on a new page and there isn't that pressure on me," he said.

"Jantjies is the in-form scrumhalf in South Africa and he is playing really well, but it is an opportunity for us to show what we are capable of. However, it is more important for the team because it is a massive game for the team as well. We need to build momentum going into a bye week as well.

"There will always be personal battles and it is a north-south derby, but we are really focused on what our team must do and that is where our focus must lie."

Van Zyl knows full well a halfback's play is determined by the ball he gets from his pack and while he was happy with the ball he got in Durban despite their defeat to the Sharks, he believes this will be the key area in which the Bulls need to stand up this weekend.

"This weekend is going to be a different beast, their pack is one of their strong points and something they pride themselves on. I was happy with the way our forwards went in the set-piece. We need to be more focused on keeping the ball and sorting out the breakdown. If we can do that as a pack and make sure we are quick to secure our own ball we can be dangerous."

Still, despite all the talk, both Bulls scrumhalves lost ground to Jantjies over the last year and know what they missed out on.

Saturday is the ideal opportunity to show what they can do as well.

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15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Johan du Toit, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kithsoff (captain)

Substitutes: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Ersnt van Rhyn, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis


15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Jeandré Rudolph, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka

Substitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Wian Vosloo, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw

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