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South African derby determines number eight bragging rights

Evan Roos and Cameron Hanekom will battle it out when the Bulls take on the Stormers in Cape Town

The DHL Stormers versus the Vodacom Bulls is a crunch BKT United Rugby Championship match and for South Africans it does not get bigger than the north versus south derby.


It also won’t get much bigger on Saturday evening in Cape Town than the one-on-one showdown of the No 8 young guns Evan Roos and Cameron Hanekom.

Whoever wins on Saturday takes huge strides and individually Roos will want to establish the pecking order of those chasing the Springboks No 8 jersey vacated by the retired Duane Vermeulen.

Hanekom exploded into the 2023-24 BKT URC as a force from the base of the scrum and quickly established himself as a standout talent as the Vodacom Bulls surged to five wins in seven matches.

His opposite number, the dynamic Roos also has a big appetite for collisions and adds an abrasive physicality to a formidable DHL Stormers back row that is completed by ballhawk Deon Fourie and tearaway flanker Hacjivah Dayimani on the blindside.

Double World Cup winner Vermeulen has abdicated his throne as the Springboks’ thundering No 8 and Roos and Hanekom lead the next generation of back-row powerhouses who pride themselves on ensuring the pack continues to rumble.


An uncompromising player in the mould of Vermeulen, Hanekom has hit the ground running in a breakthrough season in Pretoria, with an MVP performance on his competition debut against the Scarlets in Round 1, which included a brace of tries.


The 21-year-old dominated the stats for carries and metres gained in the early rounds of the competition, and talk around his physical presence at the breakdown and set piece turned up another level when it was revealed he is eligible to play for Wales, through his grandmother.

Reflecting on his sudden emergence this season, which drew comparisons to the legendary Vermeulen, Hanekom said: “It’s been an amazing experience, I’ve been learning a lot and can’t wait to learn more.

“Duane is one of my role models… Obviously I’m trying to make a name for myself, but if I’m being referred to as the next Duane I won’t mind it!”


Roos, 23, is no stranger to the hype machine. He too was touted as South Africa’s next heavyweight ball-carrier based on standout performances for the DHL Stormers teams that powered to back-to-back BKT URC finals, a contribution that was rewarded with a Springbok call-up in 2022.

Having packed so much experience into the last 20 months, including the disappointment of missing out on selection for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, a recharged Roos has thrust himself into 2023-24 with renewed vigour and is poised to make a resounding impact against a Vodacom Bulls side that he boasts a 6-0 record against in the competition in the past two seasons.

Blessed with an industrial leg drive, and surprising turn of speed for a 110kg loose forward, Roos helped the DHL Stormers clinch the inaugural BKT URC and then hogged the awards ceremony by being named the League’s Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season, Fans’ Player of the Season, Next-Gen Player of the Season and a place in the Dream Team.

“Thinking about where I was to where I am now, it seems surreal. A lot has happened very quickly,” Roos said. “And regardless of whether I’m in the Bok mix or not, I’m always fired up for a season with the DHL Stormers.

“The BKT URC is super-competitive by nature, and we want to do as well as we can and get into a final again.”

While Vermeulen leaves a tremendous legacy in his retirement, the talent coming through the South African pipeline is, literally, thick and fast. History has repeatedly shown that the next South Africa great is coming off a conveyor belt of talent that never stops running, and the DHL Stadium is expected to serve as the runway when Roos and Hanekom taxi out of the tunnel on Saturday.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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