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Three sporting figures in the spotlight this weekend

Sports Mole singles out three sporting figures who will be in the spotlight this weekend.

We may now be in the height of the summer months, with the English football domestic season still a couple of weeks away, but there is plenty of action taking place this weekend to keep the sporting punter happy.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at three figures in particular who will be under the spotlight over the next few days.


1. Heyneke Meyer

With this being a World Cup year, every game in the rugby calendar takes on added significance. Yet in a fixture which pits together two of the game's true heavyweights in New Zealand and South Africa - the two best sides in the history of the sport - extra billing really is not needed.

Head coach Heyneke Meyer looks on during a South African Springboks training session at Hale School on September 2, 2014© Getty Images

The Springboks are seeking back-to-back wins over their great rivals for the first time in six years, and there would be no better time to lay down that marker with the World Cup now less than two months away. The onus is very much on the home side in Johannesburg, too, having lost their Rugby Championship opener late on against Australia last week.

New Zealand had far fewer problems in their meeting with Argentina, meanwhile, storming to a 39-18 victory in Christchurch to ensure their tournament got off to a trouble-free start. They now face a different challenge entirely, though, against a South Africa side currently directly below them in the world rankings.

Of course, both managers also have a chance to experiment slightly - this is after all a mere taster ahead of the main course which is still to come this autumn. That will not stop Meyer sending his team out fired up, however, as they aim to get their Championship campaign back on track in the best way possible.


2. Mark Warburton

Make no mistake about it; in bringing Warburton to the club this summer, Rangers pulled off a huge coup in their battle to make a Scottish Premiership return. After missing out in the playoffs last season, a change of direction was needed in order for the Gers to push on this time around.

Mark Warburton the Brentford manager looks on before the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Brentford at Craven Cottage on April 3, 2015© Getty Images

Warburton was reportedly a target for a string of Championship clubs, including both Fulham and Queens Park Rangers, while there were also murmurs of a Premier League club showing some interest. Brentford's loss could now prove to be the Ibrox club's gain, should the former city banker achieve the goal set out of achieving promotion into the top flight of Scottish football.

The transfer business to date has been shrewd, with the likes of Wes Foderingham, James Tavernier, Rob Kiernan, Danny Wilson, Jason Holt, Andy Halliday and Martyn Waghorn all coming in. Each of those aforementioned names will be available for selection this afternoon when Warburton officially gets his Rangers reign underway.

Hibernian provide the opposition in the first round of the Challenge Cup, as they did 12 months ago when the Gers prevailed 2-1, but Hibs manager Alan Stubbs will be hoping that his side can be quicker out of the blocks on this occasion. Despite a 1-0 defeat to Burnley in their last pre-season run-out earlier this week, Warburton claims that his side are in good shape, as they embark on a campaign that could end with them back in the big time once again.


3. Michael van Gerwen

It always bodes well for a major championship - no matter what the sport - when the best players make it to the semi-final stage. The final four of this year's Darts World Matchplay in Blackpool will pit together Phil Taylor (second in the world), James Wade (sixth), Van Gerwen (first) and Peter Wright (fifth) in what should be a thrilling final showdown.

Michael van Gerwen of Holland celebrates winning his semi final match against Raymond van Barneveld of Holland during the Betway Premier League at The 02 Arena on May 21, 2015© Getty Images

While Van Gerwen may currently be ranked at number one in the world, nobody is more feared in this competition than the man who is currently on a whopping 38-match unbeaten run at Winter Gardens. The latest victim in that impressive streak was Dave Chisnall, who fell to a 16-8 defeat on Friday night.

With Gary Anderson being stunned by Mensur Suljovic in the second round, thus ending his hopes of sealing a Triple Crown, Van Gerwen and Taylor remain on course for a repeat of last year's final on the seaside. On that occasion 'The Power' came out on top, much like he did in each of the six years prior to maintain his tight grip on the trophy.

In fact, Taylor has gone all the way 15 times since the competition's inception back in 1994, seeing off the old guard and the new in that time. Four-time finalist Wade will give all he has in tonight's semi-final, of course, but his toughest challenge is likely to come in the showpiece final should Van Gerwen overcome Wright. There remain plenty of ifs and buts before we get to that stage, but it could provide a superb battle between the sport's two finest players.


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Phil Taylor of England celebrates winning his first round match against Jyhan Artut of Germany on Day Two of the William Hill PDC World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace on December 19, 2014
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Result: Taylor through to World Matchplay semis
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