Six of the best in the Jukskei Derby
Sanele Nohamba and Marcell Coetzee will have huge responsibility in URC clash
The Bulls and the Lions are yet to name their teams for Saturday's Jukskei Derby at Loftus Versfeld. Here are six players who may have the biggest influence on the outcome of the United Rugby Championship (URC) match.
A near virtuoso performance from Nohamba helped win the day for the Lions on their previous visit to Loftus in the URC. Whether he is deployed at scrumhalf or flyhalf, Nohamba will need to repeat the role he played last year. He was incisive, probing the Bulls' weak spots, while providing the Lions' thrust when opportunity beckoned. His tactical awareness and kicking game will help determine how effective the Lions' challenge will be in the capital.
For the Lions to win at Loftus they will at times have to run the Bulls ragged. They have the backs to do that, but it will also require seamless link play with their forwards. That is where Horn's ability to command the tramlines can become a valuable asset as the Lions try to outflank the Bulls. Horn can bring bulk and dexterity to a less heavily patrolled area.
The burly prop has been one of the Lions' form players this season. It has helped make him one of the crowd favourites at Ellis Park, but he is getting noticed in a wider context. A statement performance at Loftus will greatly enhance his stock in the national estimation. The Lions don't just need stability against the much-vaunted Bulls' scrum, they need clear dominance in the ones that matter.
The barrel-chested flank won't just have to bring his bulk to bear, but he will have to exude cool-headed leadership. The Bulls have been potent in attack in the URC and the Champions Cup, but there are times where they allow their ambition to run amok over reality. To what degree the Bulls stick to script will be down to Coetzee against opponents that will be hell-bent on rocking the apple cart.
The loose head prop capped once for the Springboks is likely to have a big job on his hands on Saturday. Packing down against Asenathi Ntlabakanye won't just help determine which side gets decent front foot ball, but who has territorial ascendancy. Steenekamp quickly rose in the national estimation and earned a cap against Argentina in Buenos Aires last year, but Ntlabakanye also harbours ambitions tinged with green and gold.
Saturday's clash may be in the URC, but in the Champions Cup the Bulls boast the highest percentage in the collision dominance stakes. Wessels has helped bash and bend the gainline and his burgeoning reputation has seen comparisons being drawn with former Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis. Wessels, who featured in the front row, lock and back row at school, has delivered a number of forceful performances for the Bulls this season and another one may well earn them a valuable derby win.
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