An ardent Sharks supporter in his youth, WP centre Peter Grant believes his adopted province can beat the Absa Currie Cup favourites on Saturday.
“Having grown up in the Natal Midlands, I always supported them, “Grant told keo.co.za. “But obviously things have changed.
“The Sharks have been the form side in SA this year and their great strength is in how they are able to vary their game. They are capable of playing it really tight or running it from everywhere with their dangerous back three.”
JP Pietersen’s inclusion in the Vodacom Tri-Nation’s squad sees Brett Hennessey replace Carl Bezuidenhout at fullback. Adrian Jacobs shifts to inside centre to pair up with Gareth Rees, while Scott Mathie replaces Ruan Pienaar who along with Andries Strauss has reverted to the bench. The Sharks pack remains unchanged.
“They have a really strong pack of forwards but I really believe that we can take them on up front,” Grant said.
Butch James’s return to the squad last week made a significant difference to the Sharks attacking lines, and he may be the man to watch out for against WP at Newlands.
“He is a big part of their game, but we won’t be focussing exclusively on him. There are other areas that we have identified as more important.”
Grant played at first centre against the Pumas last week, and admits that it has taken some getting used to.
“I played most of my junior rugby in that position, so that’s not the problem. It’s just taking a bit of time to get used to it again. Sometimes I find myself playing in the flyhalf channel and Naas [Olivier] has to kick me back to the centres.”
Much has been said about WP’s new conservative approach, but Kobus van der Merwe’s decision to play the two Stormers flyhalves alongside each other in the midfield could prove to be solution to the side’s problems.
“My partnership with Naas is improving all the time. We are looking to get back in the habit of scoring tries, and so will be looking to throw the ball around a bit more.”
Western Province: 15-Gio Aplon, 14-Chumani Booi, 13-Corne Uys, 12-Peter Grant, 11-Joe Pietersen, 10-Naas Olivier, 9-Bolla Conradie, 8-Robbie Diack, 7-Justin Melck, 6-Luke Watson (C), 5-Gerrie Britz, 4-Francois van der Merwe, 3-Attie Winter, 2-Schalk Brits, 1-JD Moller. Reserves: 16-Huia Edmonds, 17-Brok Harris, 18-Schalk Ferreira, 19-Rob Linde, 20-Pieter Myburg, 21-Neil De Kock, 22- Sarel Potgieter
Sharks: 15- Brett Hennessey, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13- Grant Rees, 12- Adrian Jacobs, 11- Dusty Noble, 10- Butch James, 9- Scott Mathie, 8- AJ Venter (C), 7- Jacques Botes, 6- Warren Britz, 5- Johann Muller, 4- Steven Sykes, 3- Danie Saayman, 2- Bismarck du Plessis, 1- Kees Lensing. Reserves: 16- Jody Jenneker, 17- Sangoni Mxoli, 18- Ryan Kankowski, 19- Keegan Daniel, 20- Ruan Pienaar, 21- Andries Strauss, 22- Gcobani Bobo.
By Jon Cardinelli