Province welcome back Boks
The threat of having to play a promotion-relegation game has driven Western Province coach Allister Coetzee to select all his returning Springboks for Saturday’s final Absa Currie Cup league match against the Cheetahs.
Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Duane Vermeulen, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth and Tiaan Liebenberg have all returned to the starting team for the match, which WP need to win to avoid the prospect of having to play a promotion/relegation game against the top team in the First Division of the Currie Cup.
Of the seven players who have been added to the starting team, only hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, centre Juan de Jongh and No 8 Duane Vermeulen have seen action in the Currie Cup.
They all played early in the competition before being called up by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer for the Castle Rugby Championship after they missed the initial leg against Argentina.
De Villiers will lead the side in place of Deon Fourie, who retains his position on the openside flank.
The national captain though was dressed in casual clothes at training on Wednesday and hasn’t played any part in practice this week as he battles a hamstring and knee niggle.
Whether fielding De Villiers when he is still bruised from the international season is in the national interest is a debatable point, but Coetzee said he had to wear his “WP cap” in making the selection.
“I have expressed concerns about the playing schedule and from a national viewpoint I can understand the reservations, but the decision has been made to let the Springboks be available to play in the remaining games in the Currie Cup so as WP coach I can’t leave them out,” said Coetzee.
Apart from the returning Springboks, the only additional change to the side that lost to the Blue Bulls in Pretoria last Friday sees Gio Aplon come into the group after recovering from the ankle injury he suffered against Griquas a few weeks ago.
However Coetzee has elected to play Aplon off the bench rather than as a member of the starting team.
“Gio only came back into training this week so we felt it was better to ease him back into action rather than rush him into the starting team,” said Coetzee.
DHL WESTERN PROVINCE: Joe Pietersen, Gerhard van den Heever, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Demetri Catrakilis, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Don Armand, Deon Fourie, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Brok Harris, De Kock Steenkamp, Jebb Sinclair, Louis Schreuder, Marcel Brache, Gio Aplon.