They may not be the biggest guys on the field when the Isuzu Southern Kings take on the Toyota Cheetahs in the Guinness PRO14 Round 11 match on Friday, but an exciting battle can be expected between the scrumhalves from both teams in the South African derby.
Two of the most experienced men from either side happen to be playing in the No9 position – Sarel Pretorius for the Isuzu Southern Kings and Rudy Paige for the Toyota Cheetahs.
Both players have at stages of their decorated careers been widely regarded as one of the best scrumhalves in the country.
The 34-year-old Pretorius, formerly a Cheetahs player, and Paige, a former Bulls halfback, have faced each other before during stints at their previous teams; and as a result have gained mutual respect and a competitive rivalry.
In a career spanning 12 years, Pretorius has played close to 80 Vodacom Super Rugby matches for the Cheetahs, 14 for the Waratahs of Australia and has over 70 Guinness PRO appearances for his former side, Dragons. He has played only once for the Isuzu Southern Kings, making his debut in the side’s opening match of the new year against Edinburgh a fortnight ago. The former Barbarians and Emerging Springboks player is looking forward to continue making a contribution to the game and igniting old rivalries.
“Rudy has proven himself as one of the top scrumhalves in the country, and having come up against him on a few occasions, I can attest that he is one of the toughest opponents to face,” conceded Pretorius.
“Things will be no different this week when we take on the Cheetahs. I am convinced he will again be at his best and will provide great competition for any of our scrumhalves in the Isuzu Southern Kings team that coach Deon Davids picks for the match.”
The 29-year-old Paige represented the Bulls in almost 50 outings during Vodacom Super Rugby. He represented the SA Under-20 side in 2009 and went on to feature 13 times for the Springboks.
Paige had equal praise for his opposite number while acknowledging the quality of halfbacks in the Guinness PRO14.
“The quality of the scrumhalves is unbelievably high in this competition, and everyone has their own, different strengths. This means that if you get an opportunity to play, you need to be at your best,” Paige said.
“Sarel is a really good player with plenty of experience. He is the kind of player that will keep you busy for 80 minutes. But for me, the most important thing is to make sure that I focus on my own game and give the best for my team.”
Fireworks can also be expected when the other No9’s in both teams – Stefan Ungerer for the Isuzu Southern Kings or Tian Meyer for the Toyota Cheetahs – battle it out on the park. Both were the ones getting starting berths in their most recent matches.
While some of the focus will be on the battle of the halfbacks, the overall historic rivalry between the two sides will be the main focus, with both sides keen to gain the bragging rights after the first of three derby matches for the 2018/19 season.
“There is a lot of excitement for this game because of how competitive South Africans are. Both teams definitely want the bragging rights for the derby. With that in mind, Friday night’s game should be a really tough derby,” said Paige.
Pretorius added: “South African derbies are known to be some of the most exciting, and this weekend will be no different. Not only will the rivalry be evident on the field, but the fans too will want to be the ones bragging at the end of 80 minutes. We can expect nothing less than the best on and off the field this coming Friday.”
The match will be played at the Nelson Mandela University’s Madibaz Stadium at 19h00 on Friday, January 18.
Tickets for the match are available at all Ticket Pro outlets at only R20 a ticket.
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