Springbok 'trial' in Durban
SPOTLIGHT: Saturday’s United Rugby Championship South African derby in Durban has a mini Springbok trial packed into the drama in the Shark Tank.
It features a duel between Grant Williams and Herschel Jantjies that may determine which of the two scrumhalves travels with the Springboks to the 2023 World Cup.
The Sharks welcome the Stormers to Kings Park on Saturday in a delayed coastal derby that was rescheduled from the opening round in September.
Things are tightening up in the battle for the SA conference as the Sharks have a game in hand over the Stormers and a win in Durban would cut the gap on the defending champions to eight league points.
However, there is always a national connotation in every South African derby, and Jantjies and Williams are likely battling to join a Bok scrumhalf queue already featuring Jaden Hendrikse, Francois de Klerk and Cobus Reinach.
With Jaden Hendrikse again unavailable for the Sharks due to Springbok resting protocols, Williams will make his seventh start of the 2022/23 URC campaign – he has been electric scoring four tries in six starts.
The 26-year-old Williams made his Test debut for the Springboks last year in the second of the three-match series against Wales.
Though that marked his only Test appearance in 2022, Williams did play for the South Africa ‘A’ side during the November tour of Ireland and England.
Deadly around the fringes, the rapid scrumhalf is the most incisive ball-carrier in Durban where the Sharks are among the league’s leaders for average metres per carry.
Opposing Williams in Saturday’s derby is likely to be another Springbok scrumhalf looking to provide a timely reminder of his ability.
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Hendrikse’s excellent form and a few nagging injuries restricted Jantjies to just two Test appearances in 2022, both of them coming as a reserve against Wales in Pretoria and New Zealand in Johannesburg.
Jantjies has also only managed two starts in the URC this season, after playing a crucial role in the Stormers’ run to the title last season.
The 26-year-old opened up on his ambition to continue growing his game this year.
“Tries are always fun and contributing in any way possible is what it’s all about. It was a step in the right direction, and, for me, it’s always been about chasing myself and trying to improve and adapt,” said Jantjies.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way, but I believe that if I keep working hard and keep on trying, things will eventually go my way.
“The goal now is to work even harder and to make sure my name is with no doubt on that World Cup list.”
With both scrumhalves eager to enhance their national team standing, expect fireworks in what will be a fiery league derby in Durban.
Picture credit: inpho.ie