It’s that time of year again! The hemispheres are set to do battle in the annual North v South Derby at the Stade de Frigid.
It’s the game the whole planet has been waiting for! The best of the North face the best of the South in the traditional December 25 fixture as the Northern Polar Bears and Southern Penguins renew their age-old rivalry
Once again the Bill Bew Sille trophy is up for grabs as the Bears look to end years of southern domination.
The northerners’ troubles have not been helped by a long run of inconsistent team selections. Polar Bears coach Clause Santason’s assistants have reportedly been at odds over who to play in midfield with overweight former league star Sam Bastargess in the spotlight.
The chunky code convert made headlines when he was included in the squad and is likely to draw further controversy by being lined up in the centres, rather than at prop, where be plays his club rugby.
Chief-assistant coach Joel Gatcaster believes the sheer size of Bastargess’s gut will give the Bears penetration in midfield but critics claim his inexperience in the XV-man code make him a liability.
“What the northerners are looking for is their own Danny Bill Wallende,” commented Penguins coach Chris Masphather.
“But their fat boy won’t cut it. DBW actually knows how to pass.”
The Bears’ lack of spark on attack is almost sure see co-assistant-coach-in-charge-of-flair André Saint-Brunellippe axed following his complete failure to bring any sort of clarity over of team’s game plan (if such a thing exists).
Polar Bears coach Clause Santason has raised a few eyebrows with his midfield selections too. Youngster Jesse Kuridraniel has been named at 13 despite playing most of his Super-Duper Rugby at full-back while veteran Ma’an de Nilliers – who has been half brilliant, half decrepit this year – starts at 12.
The good news is playmaker Dan Cambie has recovered from an overused groin to start at fly-half with versatile Juan Matt Gitandez on the bench, meaning there is no place for young-gun fly-half Nicolandré Polanchez.
Try-machine wing Julyan Habavea’s inflamed cranium has now spread to his pocket but Penguins assistant coach Heyn Cheikansen reckons he is still the deadliest finisher in the game.
“An inflamed cranium is a common problem for a wing. His pocket was pretty swollen when he arrived in camp, we just need to make sure it doesn’t spread to his waist too,” he said.
Penguins skipper Richie McBurger has once again recovered from a series of serious setbacks but his persistent left-intercostal-earlobe-defragmentation will not prevent him from leading the side.
Bears sharpshooter George Fexton has an inflamed-incandescent-infected-ingrown toenail but he nevertheless starts ahead of Fred Farrellak.
Bismarck Preevy is back in form and replaces his twin brother Augustin Strauvy in the Penguins’ starting XV as he closes in on former skipper John Smealamu’s record for Test caps at hooker.
Players to watch:
For the Northern Polar Bears: Out wide the northerners will be hoping George Nuget can use his sheer size to make an impact while Jamey Faleteaslip will be key to their efforts at the base of the scrum.
For the Southern Penguins: Is Kieran Vermeulocock the best number eight ever? A monster with ball in hand, he has amazing hands and is also a real threat on the deck.
Head-to head: The scrum battle is sure to be titanic between Beast Mtayerza and Samson Mastrogiovanni.
Prediction: Margins are always small at this level but the Penguins must start as favourites. You can be sure of one thing: After the game the ‘refreshments’ will flow thick and fast. The Hemispheres to draw 25-all and everyone to have cracking New Year, be friends and live happily ever after!
South Pole: 15 Ben Fuculau, 14 Nehe Ashley-Coordero, 13 Jesse Kuridraniel, 12 Ma’an de Nilliers, 11 Julyan Habavea, 10 Dan Cambie, 9 Aaron du Prenia, 8 Kieran Vermeulocock, 7 Richie McBurger (c), 6 Jerome Fardno, 5 Sam de Jagelock, 4 Brodie Etzeballick, 3 Owen Ferrera, 2 Bismarck Preevy, 1 Beast Mtayerza
Replacements: 16 Stephane Moles, 17 Ben Flipper, 18 Jannie Sekoplessis, 19 Victor Mummfield, 20 Juan-Michael Hoopandez Louw, 21 Ruan Kerr-Bubelli, 22 Juan Matt Gitandez, 23 Danny Bill Wallende
North Pole: 15 Mike Hoggpenny, 14 Tommy Zebowe, 13 Sam Bastargess, 12 Weslie Roberana, 11 George Nuget, 10 George Fexton, 9 Danny Laidurray, 8 Jamey Faleteaslip, 7 Chris Roburton (c), 6 Thierry Lydiatoir, 5 Richie Grawes, 4 Paul O’Papenell, 3 Samson Mastrogiovanni, 2 Rory Beraldini, 1 Jack McGenkins.
Replacements:16 Guilhem Baldyoung, 17 Euan Slimipola, 18 Matias Marlero, 19 Geoff-Alun Jonebury, 20 Peter O’Woodony, 21 Sébastien Tilhys-Webb, 22 Fred Farrellak, 23 Andrea Menshaw
Date: Tuesday, December 25
Venue: Stade de Frigid
Kick-off: High Noon
Weather: minus 24°C, snow, and a fresh north-wester 35 km/h
Referee: Lawrence Lawrence
Touch judges: Mark Lawrence, Bryce Lawrence
Television match official: Jean-Pierre Lawrence III
Assessor: His Royal Highness The Scarlet Badger