Super Rugby

Sharks v Lions: 5 key head-to-heads

Cape Town - The highlight of the Super Rugby weekend from a South African point of view is undoubtedly Saturday's clash between the Sharks and Lions in Durban. 

While it is a crucially important fixture for the Sharks, who are fighting for their lives in the tournament, there are also some intriguing head-to-head contests that await, made even more significant after a month of Springbok rugby. 

There are key battles all over the park, and on paper this fixture looks a difficult one to call. 

Here, we go through some of the more mouth-watering duels. 

Robert du Preez v Elton Jantjies

You don't have to look further than the battle of the two No 10s. Both of these players under-achieved in Springbok colours in June. Du Preez's double charge down in the final moments of his debut against Wales ultimately cost the Boks the game, while Jantjies was woeful in last weekend's 25-10 loss to England in Cape Town. Both players have a point to prove. Du Preez will want to show that he should be considered next in line to the Bok No 10 jersey behind Handre Pollard, while Jantjies will be desperate to put in a classy performance to give a timely reminder of his ability. Both players could do with an injection of confidence and guiding their side to a win in a heated local derby should do the trick. 

Robert du Preez (Gallo Images)

Robert du Preez

Akker van der Merwe v Malcolm Marx

Another tantalising battle. Marx makes his return from injury but while he was gone Van der Merwe made a name for himself in Springbok colours. At this stage, Bongi Mbonambi is considered the back-up Bok hooker to Marx, but Van der Merwe is not far behind. If he gets one over his former Lions team-mate on Saturday, Van der Merwe will make his case even stronger. Both players are physically dominant. Look out for Van der Merwe's bulldozing runs and Marx's sometimes other-worldly work on the ground. 

Malcolm Marx

S'bu Nkosi v Aphiwe Dyantyi

This one isn't about competing for national honours, but the prospect of the two Springbok wings running at each other is worth looking forward to. Both players were impressive in their first exposures to Test rugby during the England series, and they have surely done enough to keep their places in the starting line-up when the Rugby Championship kicks off in August. Nkosi is considered one of the strongest wings in South African rugby while Dyantyi is a natural finisher. It has the potential to be an explosive meeting of two of South Africa's brightest young stars. 

S'bu Nkosi

Daniel du Preez v Warren Whiteley 

Whiteley makes his long-awaited return from injury, and while getting through the match unscathed will be his priority, he is up against a No 8 who has his own ambitions. Du Preez played in the loss to Wales in Washington and did not feature against England, but with Duane Vermeulen out of the Rugby Championship there is an opening. A fit Whiteley would be the front-runner to get that spot, but Du Preez is probably a more like-for-like replacement for Vermeulen. He will want to dominate the physical exchanges, make his hits and win the battle on the ground. 

Warren Whiteley

Lukhanyo Am v Lionel Mapoe 

Am started the first two Tests against England and was solid enough without blowing anyone away. Mapoe, meanwhile, found himself as South Africa's first-choice No 13 for much of the Allister Coetzee era. He has had his own struggles with injury this season, but now that he is back to full fitness he will want to put some pressure on Am and Jesse Kriel for a Bok spot. Both players can be lethal on their day, and if the weather in Durban allows a running game of rugby, look out for Am and Mapoe to play major roles in the end result.  

Lukhanyo Am (All pics from Gallo Images)

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:15.

Teams:

Sharks

15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Phillip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Beast Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo

Lions

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith

Substitutes: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19, Lourens Erasmus, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Courtnall Skosan

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