Springboks duo Deon Fourie and Eben Etzebeth.

Springboks duo Deon Fourie and Eben Etzebeth. Photo: Via URC.

Top billing showdown in battle of the Bok bruisers

Two titans of South African rugby will collide when Springboks Deon Fourie and Eben Etzebeth face off in Cape Town.

Springboks duo Deon Fourie and Eben Etzebeth.

Springboks duo Deon Fourie and Eben Etzebeth. Photo: Via URC.

Two titans of South African rugby will clash on Saturday when Springboks Deon Fourie and Eben Etzebeth, recent comrades in World Cup glory, face off in Cape Town.

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The resurgent Stormers are looking to build on a heroic victory against SA rivals, the Bulls, while the Sharks cruise into Table Bay desperate to change their fortunes in the competition, having just one win to show for their efforts in the 2023-24 Vodacom URC.

Fourie is the steel beam in the Stormers’ plan to control the defensive breakdown, and his fairy-tale journey is an inspiration to the men he leads into battle between the whitelines.

The 37-year-old openside flanker was infulential in the Stormers team that won the inaugural URC, which earned him a Springbok call-up and the title of the oldest player to make his debut in the green and gold. His crowning moment came at the 2023 Rugby World Cup where he deputised at hooker for 77 minutes, the final three minutes in which he captained the Springboks.

Fourie’s poaching prowess and disruptive play make him indispensable to the Stormers and the captaincy rests comfortably on his experienced shoulders. Fourie steered the team to victory over European champions La Rochelle in the Champions Cup and then led the charge against the Bulls.

But Fourie’s return for the Stormers has been far from easy. Following the celebrations after the World Cup, his father’s passing cast a shadow, yet, the seasoned campaigner was soon back on the rugby field, eager to put his shoulder to the wheel.

“He’s been through probably the craziest time you can have,” DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson said ahead of Fourie’s comeback against Zebre Parma in Round 6 of the Vodacom URC.

“He’s won a World Cup, his father passed away, he’s just come back from the funeral. We wanted to give him more time, but he wants to play rugby.”

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Fourie and Etzebeth were Stormers teammates between 2012 and 2014, and the towering Bok enforcer will be able to empathise with the tenacious fetcher. Etzebeth, who lost his father earlier this year, was at the heart of South Africa’s consecutive World Cup triumphs, duly nominated in the World Rugby Awards and recognised in the Men’s 15s Dream Team of the Year, testament to the immense power and grit he adds to the world champions’ tight five.

The favourite to win a successive SA Rugby Player of the Year accolade, the 32-year-old is an adamantine obstacle to his opponents and a revered mentor to his teammates.

Cape Town born an schooled, Etzebeth’s impact on the Sharks in his return from national duty has been obvious, and the Springbok centurion’s scoring spree in the Vodacom URC and European Challenge Cup – four tries in as many matches – has helped boost the Durban outfit in John Plumtree’s second stint at the helm.

“Eben is pretty inspirational and it’s not easy for a guy like that to come back off a World Cup win and get back into his club and start performing straight away,” said Plumtree.

With Fourie and Etzebeth billed at the top of another epic duel in Cape Town on Saturday between traditional South African powerhouses, fans can expect bone-crunching collisions in a raw display of selfless valour worthy of two world champions.

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eben etzebeth, sharks, Springboks
Eben Etzebeth will play for the Sharks against the Stormers in a URC derby on Saturday. Images via X: @sharksrugby