CAPE TOWN – A popular cricket tournament in India built is brand on the slogan “when friends become enemies”. Its focal point was, of course, international teammates joining different franchises to face off in heated competition.
A Super Rugby clash between the Sharks and Stormers is fairly similar with players in both teams having previously been integral members of the opposing camps. This certainly adds an extra edge to an already intriguing South African derby that is expected once again to be quite a physical affair on Saturday at Kings Park.
A case in point is new Sharks captain Louis Schreuder and Stormers prop Frans Malherbe. Of similar age – Schreuder is 28 and Malherbe 27 – they first opposed each other playing for their respective school teams Paarl Gymnasium and Paarl Boys High before cementing their friendship while coming through the ranks at Western Province and the Stormers together.
“We are very good friends. I am very glad for him (Schreuder). He deserves it (the Sharks captaincy),” the burly Stormers prop Malherbe said.
“Obviously the personnel know some of the guys a bit better than others. Hopefully we have changed enough for them to not know our calls. I think it makes it more interesting particular the tactics and preparation.”
After a spending a couple of Super Rugby seasons more on the treatment table than on the turf, Malherbe is not fazed by all the “ego stuff” though and is simply happy to running out for his beloved Stormers.
He put in a solid 65 minutes in his first outing last Saturday against the Lions at Newlands, but, by his own admission, he knows there is still plenty left in the tank. It wasn’t a poor showing by any means, and he was actually integral in adding some much needed chutzpah to the pack along with fellow Springbok returnee Eben Etzebeth, but Malherbe is known for his high work-rate in defence at close quarters, and scrumming prowess.
With this being a World Cup year, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on the tighthead’s progress, and particularly how he fares against fellow Bok contenders Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen. The latter, especially, has been outstanding in the opening rounds of Super Rugby and too looks determined to make up for lost time after also spending a lengthy period on the sidelines through injury last season.
“It is nice to be playing Super Rugby from the start. I played about four/five games off the bench last year. Very excited to see where we going. It was great to play 65 minutes. Obviously I must be better, but there is time,” Malherbe said before turning his attention to the challenge on Saturday.
“Beast and the boys… it’s going to be a big battle. They are very good. Beast and Coenie are highly respected and we’ll wait to see who they pick at hooker.
Obviously Coenie is a respected player and a very experienced prop. We have to do our analysing in the week. Derbies are hard, tough physical. You really have to be up for it.”