CAPE TOWN – Often the talk among the older generation is that rugby has lost its toughness.
Whether that’s due to the rule changes that now place a greater emphasis on player safety – as they should – or the fact that there are no longer any more hardebaarde doing the rounds is anyone’s guess.
Players like Adri Geldenhuys, Rudi “Vleis” Visagie, the Toefy brothers, Aslam and Nazeem, and Adolf Malan were renowned not only for their skill but also for their virtual thuggery on the field.
An infamous Geldenhuys tale tells of when the former Springbok lock sent his fist straight into the jaw of All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick in the first scrum of the Boks’ return to international rugby back in 1992.
With the increased usage of television footage, such barbarism belongs to a bygone era.
However, the officials at Newlands tonight will certainly be on high alert when the Stormers face-up to the Jaguares in their crucial Super Rugby clash.
Both teams have an impressive set of forwards that will provide for a titanic clash up front, but they also possess two individuals who could easily have mixed it with the best of the oldies.
On the Stormers’ side is, of course, Eben Etzebeth. The Springbok strongman has made an impressive return to Super Rugby after missing all of last season and has injected a much-needed hard edge to the Stormers.
However, it is well known that it often does not require much to light Etzebeth’s short fuse and the way he maintains his discipline on the night will be crucial to the eventual outcome.
The Stormers can ill afford to play with 14 men for any length of time against a Test-strength Jaguares pack.
Etzebeth, though, will undoubtedly be antagonised by an equally robust Tomás Lavanini.
The imposing 2.01m tall second-rower, who tips the scales at 130kg, is one of the game’s renowned hard men with a social media video dedicated to him headlined “Rugby’s biggest thugs”.
After missing last week’s defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park, it seems Lavanini has been recalled just to deal with Etzebeth.
The two towering lock forwards are well acquainted with each other after sharing a few scuffles over the years, most notably in the 2015 World Cup bronze medal match at London’s Olympic Stadium.
“They will essentially be an Argentina Test match team so we know what to expect and will be preparing to play Test rugby this weekend” Stormers and Springbok centre Damian de Allende said yesterday.
“They did rest players last week but that means they will bring it this week against us.
“They struggled in the scrums in particular, so our forwards will be expecting a particularly tough battle from the guys who will come back into their pack and be in a determined mood to put the record straight.
“Hopefully we will put it together and match their physicality.”