Some of the more grizzled South African rugby fans still love to talk about the sentimentality of the North-South derby, the fierce rivalry of the Bulls and Stormers.
Yet the reality is that the Springboks’ World Cup victory has increased the sense of national interest, which makes it difficult not to feel that Saturday’s battle at Newlands is all about the heavies.
Indeed, all four props in the respective starting line-ups are national representatives, and for two in particular – Trevor Nyakane and Frans Malherbe – it’s a big weekend.
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Nyakane makes his first start of the season and will be eager to remind all why he was Rassie Erasmus’ first-choice tighthead at the World Cup before a calf injury cruelly cut his participation short.
2019 had in many ways been Nyakane’s breakout season.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been able to go out onto the field and pass a rugby ball,” the 30-year-old said on Thursday, having started on the bench against the Sharks and making an immediate impact in the scrums.
“It’s a big game, there are a lot of expectations. I’m very honoured to once again be a part of it.”
Appropriately, he’ll have to try and gain supremacy over one of the best looseheads in the game, Stormers stand-in skipper Steven Kitshoff.
“I’ve played with and against Steven for some time now. Back when I actually played my first game against the Stormers, it was against him. He’s a great guy, great scrummager and great player. We were together at the Boks and we’ve set very high standards for each other as national teammates.
“Ironically, now we have to go out and try to use that against each other. There’s probably no challenge more daunting than facing him. But that’s what I’m here for. It’s not going to be easy for both of us.”
However, it’s the man across from Nyakane in Saturday’s scrum who should be hogging the spotlight.
Siya Kolisi greets Frans Malherbe during the DHL Stormers training session and press conference at High Performance Centre on February 03, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)
Frans Malherbe will gain his 100th Super Rugby cap for the Stormers.
The unassuming Bok tighthead was at his deadpan best in playing down his achievement.
“Yes, hello guys. It’s obviously special for me. I told our media guy earlier there’s nothing we said about the 100 caps (during the week), so let’s keep it that way. I’m going to stay out on the field,” said Malherbe, much to the amusement of coach John Dobson.
“Send out Kitsie to do the media conference. Look, it’s special. But it’s the last thing I want to focus on. If you look at the magnitude of the game, individuals records are low on the priority list.”
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