Confidence is high in Cape Town as coach Kobus van der Merwe has made only one forced change to the squad that beat the Vodacom Bulls last Saturday.
Chumani Booi has injured his hamstring and will be replaced by the prolific Zhahier Ryland on the bench.
The Vodacom Western Province team are also still waiting on the results of a scan of Peter Grant’s shoulder, but Van Der Merwe told a press conference in Cape Town that he is confident that the injury is “not that serious”.
Surplus to Springbok requirements, De Wet Barry is available for WP selection, but will only come onto the bench if Grant is ruled out.
“De Wet and Shimmy (Hanyani Shimange) have missed the first three weeks of the competition and have as a result missed all the training,” explained Van Der Merwe.
“They will take some time to get used to the new calls and set structures which we have been employing.”
The WP coach is mindful of the Vodacom Cheetahs success at Newlands over the past few years, but dismisses any suggestions of a psychological advantage.
“We are a new team with a lot of new players. We have been playing some good running rugby, the kind of rugby we want to play and the kind of rugby we think our fans will enjoy,” he said.
Rassie Erasmus told keo.co.za on Tuesday that his side are the favourites for this encounter, and Van Der Merwe was inclined to agree. The pressure is squarely on the Cheetahs.
“We are the underdogs at home, which is not a bad position to be in.”
WP captain Luke Watson agreed with his coach. “If we had beaten the Sharks a couple of weeks ago, it would have been a different situation, as we would have been near the top of the table,” he said.
“The Cheetahs are the form side so far, but we’ve also progressed nicely.”
Vodacom WP: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Joe Pietersen, 13. Corne Uys, 12. Peter Grant, 11. Egon Seconds, 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. Juan Harris, 2. Schalk Brits, 1. JD Moller. Reserves: 16. Huia Edmonds, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Rob Linde, 19. Pieter Louw, 20. Paul Delport, 21. Sarel Potgieter, 22. Zhahier Ryland.
Vodacom Cheetahs: 15. Bevin Fortuin, 14. Giscard Pieters, 13. JW Jonker, 12. Dale Heidtmann, 11. Gavin Passens, 10. Willem de Waal, 9. Michael Claasens, 8. Ryno van der Merwe, 7. Bian Vermaak, 6. Hendro Scholtz (c), 5. Barend Pieterse, 4. Rory Duncan, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Jaco du Toit, 1. Ollie le Roux. Reserves: 16. Richardt Strauss, 17. Wian du Preez, 18. Corniel van Zyl, 19. Kabamba Floors, 20. Noel Oelschig, 21. Phillip Burger, 22. Gaffie du Toit.
By Jon Cardinelli