Fuzani set for WP debut
Loftus Versfeld is a heck of a venue for a visiting lock to make his debut, but then the fact that Taz Fuzani will be making his first provincial appearance at the intimidating Pretoria venue probably underlines just how much faith DHL Western Province coach has in him.
The 22-year-old Fuzani played six matches for WP at Vodacom Cup level in the early part of the year after first coming to prominence for the University of Western Cape under the coaching of former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers in the Varsity Shield.
He comes into the side for Saturday’s big Absa Currie Cup clash with the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus because Michael Rhodes, who has worn the No 4 jersey in the last few matches, has been switched to the flank.
As anticipated, regular captain Deon Fourie, who injured his ribs last week, has lost his race against time to be declared fit, with Coetzee deciding against waiting until the captain’s practice on Friday before making his call.
Fourie was unable to participate in training at Newlands on Wednesday and that was enough for Coetzee to make the decision to leave him out this week.
Fourie was also still waiting to hear the outcome of a disciplinary hearing held on Tuesday after he was cited for allegedly making contact with Sharks flank Keegan Daniel’s face near the eye area.
De Kock Steenkamp takes over the captaincy this week, and in addition to leading the side, the lock will have the additional responsibility of trying to help Fuzani ease his way into big league rugby.
The only other change to the Province side is a positional one, with big Rynhardt Elstadt switching to the No 6 flank from blindside, with Rhodes slotting into the No 7 jersey.
The selection does change the dynamic of the WP side quite considerably as Fourie was the main ball scavenger in the loose-trio, but Scarra Ntubeni has done a good job of competing for the ball on the ground recently and Coetzee would also have been mindful that the Bulls back row is mostly geared towards ball carrying.
WP, with this selection, have added considerable bulk to the pack. Gerbrandt Grobler, who started the opening game of the season against the Bulls and has been on the bench ever since, retains his place on the bench but is leapfrogged by Fuzani into the starting team. In that sense, it can be seen as a surprise selection.
Coetzee said there was little temptation to tamper with the rest of the team that has done well for him in recent weeks. Although they were held to two draws, WP were the only unbeaten side after the first half of the competition was completed.
“We have a winning culture and I’m pleased with that. Whether we get the bonus point or not, there’s a belief that revolves around a determination not to lose games, and that is good,” said Coetzee.
“I’m pleased with where we are after the first round. But this competition is far from over. It’s so close and we know we have to make sure we put our foot on the accelerator in the second half of the season.”
Although Demetri Catrakilis was available for selection this week, Coetzee opted to stay with the flyhalves who did duty last weekend – starting flyhalf Kurt Coleman and Gary van Aswegen as back-up.
DHL Western Province team: Gio Aplon, Gerhard van den Heever, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt Coleman, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Michael Rhodes, Rynhardt Elstadt, De Kock Steenkamp (capt), Taz Fuzani, Pat Cilliers, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Michael Willemse, Brok Harris, Gerbrandt Grobler, Rohan Kitshoff, Nic Groom, Gary van Aswegen, Michael van der Spuy.