VIDEO: Duhan v Cheslin - it is brawn v brain
It is the brute force of powerhouse Duhan van der Merwe against the silky-smooth skills of Cheslin Kolbe.
This intriguing battle of contrasting styles is one of the more absorbing sideshows of the opening match in a three-Test series between the British and Irish Lions and the Springboks – starting at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
Ironically both had to leave South Africa, the country of their birth, before they achieved international fame.
Van der Merwe, 26, born and schooled in George, played for SA Schools and SA Under-20.
However, after a miserable 2016 with the Bulls in Pretoria, he headed to France – where he played for Montpellier for a season, before moving to Edinburgh.
That proved to be the catalyst for his international career, as he made his Test debut for Scotland against Georgia on 23 October 2020, scoring a try in the process. His 10 appearances for his adopted country saw him called up to the B&I Lions squad and named on the left wing for Saturday’s series opener.
Directly opposite him will be Kolbe, 27, born in Kraaifontein in Cape Town’s northern suburbs and he attended Hoërskool Brackenfell.
Although Kolbe played almost 100 games for Western Province and the Stormers between 2012 and 2017, his only ‘international’ experiences were for SA U20 (2013) and SA Sevens (2015 and 2016).
At the end of 2017, Kolbe moved to Toulouse in France and his exploits in Europe resulted in a call-up to the Springboks in 2018. He played a massive role in the 2019 World Cup victory, including a stunning match-sealing try in the 32-12 win over England in the Final in Yokohama on November 2.
B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland admitted Van der Merwe can expect less than courteous ‘welcome’ in the Cape Town Stadium – given he will oppose one of the darlings of South Africa.
His power and ability to break tackles with the ball in hand is an asset the B&I Lions will looking to use to great effect against the Boks.
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“It’s going to be a real challenge,” Gatland said of the face-off on the wing.
“Cheslin didn’t get many opportunities,” the B&I Lions coach said of the encounter between the tourists and a SA ‘A’ at the same venue in a midweek match last week.
“He got one opportunity in that ‘A’ game and made the most of it,” Gatland said of the moment of magic Kolbe produced on the half-hour mark – when he ran back a stray kick, side-stepped a couple of defenders and offloaded to Lukhanyo Am for a stunning try.
“We can’t afford to do what we did in that ‘A; game and kick the ball down his throat.
“Hopefully won’t be giving him as much time and space on the ball on Saturday.”
Gatland added that there will be a target on Van der Merwe.
However, the brother of Springbok hooker Armand van der Merwe, is “relaxed” about what he will face at the Cape Town Stadium.
“Look, it’s a challenge for him [Duhan van der Merwe],” the B&I Lions coach said.
“I spoke to him yesterday [Tuesday] and said to him: ‘Do you know what’s coming on Saturday?’ and he was fully aware.
“I presume every time he touches the ball they will be trying to hit him with everything they’ve got.
“There will probably be some verbals at him as well.
“He’s well aware of what’s at stake.
“But he’s been incredibly relaxed.
“The way he’s been running with the ball and beating defenders and also scoring tries – the top try-scorer in the  Six Nations.”