Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Don’t be too confused by the headline: Sonny Bill Williams is not about to enter a heavyweight boxing rematch with Francois Botha.
There has been occasional talk of a fresh bout after the controversial points decision Williams’ way in Brisbane two years ago, although the journeyman “White Buffalo” is now 46 and time seems against him to avenge that outcome, when a supposedly scheduled 12-rounder was weirdly ended after 10.
The focus for versatile sportsman “SBW” is all rugby union on Saturday as his next head-to-head at inside centre for the impressive Chiefs sees him, fitness permitting, coming up against a similar-sized physical specimen in the Sharks’ Frans Steyn at Kings Park (19:10).
This Super Rugby clash features two sides coming off decent away wins – the Waikato tourists having outlasted and outsmarted the Stormers 28-19 in a pulsating Newlands tussle, whilst the Sharks stabilised their early season a little with a comfortable 27-10 triumph over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Williams had a crackerjack duel at No 12 with the Stormers’ in-form Damian de Allende, both men putting a strong stamp on proceedings in a tough but thoroughly engrossing match.
He was in the wars, first having to go off for a concussion test in the opening half after an accidental clash of heads with emerging tighthead strongman Vincent Koch, and then getting a cut under an eye that required stitching and left a noticeable bump.
Williams will have to pass mandatory further concussion protocols this week in order to be available for the Durban game.
He will want to be 100 percent ready because in the opposite “corner” is very likely to be Steyn, who matches him in the tale-of-the-tape department and comes off a robust, industrious showing himself in Bloemfontein, including an unstoppable try at the posts.
All Black SBW tips the scales at some 108kg and stands 1.94m, whilst the Springbok officially weighs around 110kg – though he appears to have trimmed down a bit of late – and is barely shorter at 1.92m.
The 27-year-old Steyn, who was reported at the weekend as saying he believes his Bok days are over, will enter the one-on-one, if it occurs, with an edge in Test experience: both men are World Cup winners (Williams more recently in 2011, and Steyn four years earlier) but the South African has 53 caps to the NZ star’s 23.
There could be some bone-jarring moments in their channel on Saturday, as neither is a shrinking violet either on defence or with ball in hand.
Their styles are fascinatingly different, with Williams boasting some of the most outrageous hand-skills imaginable, and Steyn a big factor with his booming boot, either out of hand or off the tee – and sometimes from vast distances.
Many rugby enthusiasts, whether specifically partial to the Chiefs or Sharks or more neutral, will be willing the midfield battle to materialise ...
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