Six heads-up heads to watch in South African derbies including Makazole Mapimpi v Canan Moodie

South African United Rugby Championship teams close out 2022 with New Year derbies, with coastal teams playing host to Gauteng franchises as the Stormers take on the Lions and the Sharks take on the Bulls. Grueling derbies are bound to produce physical matchups paired with some talent, and while we could easily pick thirty head-to-heads, we’ve narrowed the list down to just six to watch. Credit: Alamy

South African United Rugby Championship (URC) teams close out 2022 with New Year’s derbies, with coastal teams hosting Gauteng franchises while the Stormers take on the Lions and the Sharks host the Bulls.

Grueling derbies are bound to produce physical matches paired with some talent, and while we could easily pick 30 head-to-heads, we’ve narrowed the list down to just six to watch.

Sharks vs Bulls

Ox Nche versus Mornay Smith

Any of the six front rowers could have shown up here with the Bulls ready for test battle to face the Sharks’ Springbok-charged front row.

However, we have highlighted the challenge Smith will face when he goes toe-to-toe with Nche. The hard-headed Bulls were at the center of an ever-improving scrum as they won 17 penalties, the third-highest in the league, and conceded just three.

The Sharks outfit have been stingy this season, conceding only one penalty from a set piece, but have used the platform to strike, scoring five tries from scrum, the most strikes in the URC.

Smith had a comfortable turn last time out, managing to take on the insane Springbok Steven Kitshoff and will be looking to replicate that against Kitshoff’s Test teammate.

If the Bulls are to leave Durban with a win over the rejuvenated Sharks side, they will need to at least achieve parity in the scrums, with much on Smith’s shoulders to achieve this.

Siya Kolisi against Marco van Staden

The Sharks front row will undoubtedly be a challenge for the Bulls, but the battle for the breakdown will be just as intriguing, especially with the clash between Kolisi and Van Staden.

The two Springbok flankers scored tries in derbies last weekend and will be out to add to their tally in their final game of the year.

In the Sharks’ win over the Lions, Kolisi shone with the ball in hand, gaining 49 yards rushing, the second most by a South African forward in Round 10, with the Springbok captain charging on the wing at Ellis Park. While he has thrived in the wider channels against the Lions, don’t be surprised to see the 31-year-old stationed more centrally to fight Van Staden.

The Bulls open flanker has excelled since returning to the Pretoria side, getting the second most rucks for charges than Jake White in the league.

Makazole Mapimpi vs. Canan Moodie

The regular Springbok goes up against the fresh-faced Test sprinter.

Mapimpi made the number 11 shirt his own in the Test set-up but his shirt is under threat with both of the Bulls’ starting wingers on Saturday making the transition to Test rugby this year look easy.

The Sharks flyer has been in red-hot form over the past three weeks, claiming man-of-the-match performances in wins over the Harlequins and Lions, scoring twice in both games. While he failed to break the line against Bordeaux, he caused all sorts of trouble for the French side by beating six defenders.

Meanwhile, Moodie gets his second consecutive start as he was one of the rested players for the Bulls’ European Cup games. He had a relatively quiet game, by his standards, against the Stormers and will be looking to recover to his usual highs with the Mapimpi challenge ahead of him.

In his first appearance this month, he grabbed two tries in a comprehensive win over Cardiff.

Stormers versus Lions

Hacjivah Dayimani versus Emmanuel Tshituka

Lions star Tshituka moves from the side of the scrum to the back of the pack and comes up against Stormers in-form star Dayimani.

Dayimani will be eager to go against his former employers, having established and impressed in Cape Town for the Stormers. The 25-year-old has been in excellent form of late, filling the number eight shirt in the absence of Evan Roos.

He produced a man of the match performance in the European Cup tie with London Irish. He scored a try in the 34-14 win and backed it up with another dominant performance against the Bulls last time out. He regularly beats defenders with his nimble footwork and is equally impactful defensively.

Meanwhile, Tshituka was a figurehead for the Lions, making the second-most tackles (59) for the team, the most carries (75), and beat the most defensemen (19). The 22-year-old is already a superstar in his pack and will make an impression against the impressive Stormers rear.

Manie Libbok versus Jordan Hendrikse

Two fly-halfs collide in the number 10 jumpers, with the two in-form players looking to make their mark in the derby.

Libbok solidified his place in the Stormers’ starting lineup, guiding the side to the URC title last season and thus earning a maiden Test cap. Meanwhile, Hendrikse has regained the starting role from Giani Lombard at the Lions, with the Johannesburg side benefiting from the pair’s rivalry over the shirt.

New Springbok Libbok has assisted five tries in his games for the Cape franchise, with two of those assists coming from kicks. His contestable kicks were also top notch; on 10 occasions; his team retained possession from his kicks, a tally equaled by only another fly-half in the competition.

Hendrikse’s form also put him in the frame to earn a test debut for South Africa this year, but Libbok was preferred while injuries didn’t help the Lions fly-half.

He will be looking to impress once again when he takes on the in-form home half and will need to display his full skill set if he is to lead his side to victory. Although the Lions are known for their rugby run they are evolving as they have kicked more free field kicks than any other South African team in the URC and his accuracy with his boot will be crucial.

Suleiman Hartzenberg versus Henco van Wyk

Two rising stars in the outside center role in South Africa have the opportunity to shine against their rival for one last time in 2022.

It was a breakthrough year for the two young talents as Hartzenberg helped the South African U20s to a Six Nations Summer Series title before earning his URC debut and a South Africa A call-up.

He was joined in the South Africa A-team by Van Wyk, who has been a shining light in the Lions back-line, combining for a formidable central pairing with Marius Louw, who captains the side on Sunday.

Both players have played six times in the league this season and have impressed defensively, with Van Wyk completing 90% of his attempted tackles and Hartzenberg 84%. Both had four turnovers.

When it comes to attack, they are tied with three involvements apiece, three goals from Hartzeberg and Van Wyk assisting one and scoring twice.

The two up-and-comers have had similar starts to the season and will be looking to take over on Sunday and could turn the game around with contributions on either side of the ball.

READ MORE: Jonathan Sexton back to lead Leinster against Connacht, Ireland return for Ulster as Liam Williams starts 15-man for Cardiff

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