Coetzee rings the changes for WP
DHL Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has made wholesale changes to his team for Saturday’s crucial Absa Currie Cup clash with GWK Griquas at DHL Newlands.
Two positional switches are added to five team changes to make seven alterations to the side that ran onto the field at a waterlogged Kings Park to face the Sharks last Saturday.
Some of the changes can be attributed to the need to improve certain areas after a disappointing 43-27 defeat, and the team does look stronger than the one that started in Durban.
For instance, Joe Pietersen makes his long-awaited return as the starting fullback, with Gio Aplon moving to left wing as one of the switches.
With much of the Currie Cup season being about preparing for next year’s Super Rugby and developing depth, it is a pity that Damian de Allende has been deemed surplus to requirements this week, as he does look to have potential on the wing.
However, De Allende hasn’t dropped right out of the match 22, as he sits on the bench alongside Nic Groom, who makes way this week to accommodate Louis Schreuder at scrumhalf.
Schreuder scored two tries as a replacement last week and was due for a recall as per Coetzee’s rotation policy at No 9.
Groom has been a revelation thus far in the tournament and has certainly added to the depth in the position.
The one-week suspension incurred by Tyrone Holmes for punching Sharks flank Jacques Botes last week has necessitated one of the positional switches at forward.
Don Armand moves from lock where he has put in some strong performances to take the No 7 jersey that he has been acquainted with for much of his career.
Coetzee was reluctant to move Armand in previous weeks as he wants to see him develop as a lock and felt that it would be a risk to disrupt the tight five.
But with Van Sluys showing promise as a lock and there being a need for continuity, the decision to shift Armand to blindside flank looks the right one.
He made his debut for the Stormers in that position and the loose trio arguably looks stronger with him present.
WP have certainly been saved some complication by the decision of a Saru disciplinary hearing not to impose any additional sanction on the other player to be sent off last week, Jebb Sinclair.
The hearing ruled that the red card was punishment enough as Sinclair had come under severe provocation from Sharks flank Jean Deysel before unleashing the punch that felled him.
It means that Coetzee only has to make one change to the back row instead of the two he might have been expecting to make.
Nonetheless, there is an interesting new face on the bench in the form of former UCT Varsity Cup skipper JJ Gagiano, who has played for the USA.
Helmut Lehmann, a former Maties captain, joins him among the reserves, with Coetzee being afforded the chance to play the two loose-forwards because Armand can move back to lock if necessary.
The remaining two changes to the WP team come in the front row, where Coetzee is also implementing a rotational policy.
Deon Carstens and Brok Harris drop out this week, with Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe coming in.
The selection straight into the starting team of the latter may be surprising if you consider that Coetzee hasn’t had a problem playing Harris ahead of him in other games and he may be a bit jetlagged after returning from New Zealand, where he travelled to answer an SOS from Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer as cover for Jannie du Plessis and Pat Cilliers.
However both Carstens and Harris are on the bench to provide back-up should it be needed against a Griquas team that has built up an impressive head of steam with three consecutive wins over top teams in the competition.
WP beat Griquas by coming from behind in the first-round match in Kimberley in mid-August.
DHL WESTERN PROVINCE:<.strong> Joe Pietersen, Gerhard van den Heever, JP du Plessis, Marcel Brache, Gio Aplon, Demetri Catrakilis, Louis Schreuder, Jebb Sinclair, Don Armand, Deon Fourie (captain), De Kock Steenkamp, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Deon Carstens, Brok Harris, Helmut Lehmann, JJ Gagiano, Nic Groom, Gary van Aswegen, Damian de Allende.