Three key match-ups in World Cup opener

A thrilling encounter is on the cards between the Boks and Scotland with exciting match-ups across the park.

The Springboks and Scotland get their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaigns under way with a monster clash between the two sides in Marseille on Sunday, with both teams desperate for an opening win as they look to escape the ‘pool of death.’

With world number one ranked Ireland lying in wait later in the pool phase, a loss for either side would put their progress from the pool in jeopardy.

ALSO READ: ‘Every boy’s dream’: Bok stars excited to get World Cup under way

With a thrilling encounter thus on the cards, exciting match-ups will be seen across the park during the game. Here are three key battles that could help decide the outcome:

Manie Libbok v Finn Russell

Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok is set to receive one of the biggest challenges of his budding international career so far as he fronts up against Scottish star Finn Russell.

Libbok has enjoyed an impressive start to his international career with some sparkling performances and he is now the Boks’ first choice flyhalf at the World Cup. A thrilling battle is thus on the cards between himself and Russell, as they are both attacking flyhalves who enjoy receiving front foot ball and look to unlock the opposition defence.

Bok stalwart Duane Vermeulen highlighted Russell as the biggest threat in the Scottish setup earlier in the week, calling him a magician, and that is the challenge that Libbok will have to overcome.

For a number of pundits and fans there is still a question mark over whether Libbok has the big match temperament to lead the Boks to World Cup glory, but if he can continue playing like he did in their most recent match against the All Blacks, he has nothing to worry about.

Kurt-Lee Arendse v Duhan van der Merwe

Springbok wing Kurt-Lee Arendse has been given a massive opportunity to stamp his authority on the Bok number 14 jersey against Scotland on Sunday.

In-form Canan Moodie was arguably the front runner for the right wing berth, but he picked up a hamstring niggle that ruled him out of the match. Arendse thus has a golden chance to impress and push himself back ahead as the preferred starter going forward.

He will, however, face a huge challenge against Scottish left wing Duhan van der Merwe in the game. South Africa-born Van Der Merwe has become a wrecking ball for the Scots since making his debut for them in 2020 and with this his first World Cup and playing against his home country, he will be eager to put in a monster effort.

Arendse hass been in good form this season and he will be keen for another top showing, but he could find his hands full in dealing with Van Der Merwe.

Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe. Picture: Stu Forster / Gallo Images

Springbok pack v Scottish pack

What could be the main decider in how the game swings will be the battle between the Springbok and Scottish packs. The team that gets the upper hand at the set pieces will enjoy front foot ball and that will give the backline freedom to attack at will, which will be vitally important to both sides’ main attacking threats.

The Bok pack will be heading into the match as heavy favourites after they absolutely steamrolled the All Blacks pack in their warm-up two weeks ago.

The front row of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe are a formidable trio and they will be eager to continue the fantastic recent partnership that they have built up. The Scottish front row will have their hands full, but with a few South Africans in the mix they will know exactly what to expect.

Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel will both be involved in the match while scrum guru Pieter de Villiers will also play a major part in making sure they are fully prepared for the Bok challenge.

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