Expecting a tough battle in Brakpan, Kobus van der Merwe has stacked his bench with forward replacements.
Province have adjusted their line-up to accomodate more of their own big men with five out of their possible seven replacements being forwards.
“We expect that this is where the Valke will be strong,” Van Der Merwe told a press conference on Wednesday. “They play a similar style to the Bulls, as they rely heavily on their pack and the boot of their flyhalf, Louis Strydom.”
The Vodacom Western Province team sees four changes to the starting side, while three new faces appear on the bench.
Schalk Ferreira and Huia Edmonds get their first starts of the season in the front row, while Hanyani Shimange and Gerrit Dyman come into the squad as reserves. The most notable addition to the match 22 is former Springbok Selbourne Boome, who should get game time in the second half.
In the backline, Bolla Conradie is rested for Paul Delport, while Zhahier Ryland replaces the injured Joe Pietersen on the right wing.
The bigger unions should theoretically bag the five points against the likes of the Valke, Pumas and Griquas, but last week’s shock loss by the Sharks in Kimberley confirmed that this is really not as easy at it appears.
“We are focussing on securing the win,” stressed Van Der Merwe. “The five points are not the primary issue. We don’t want to be overconfident, as we are the ones who have everything to lose.”
“We’ll play to win. Except for the Free State game, the Valke have been unlucky not to win more games. Brakpan is one of the toughest places to play in the country.”
Like his coach, WP captain Luke Watson was equally wary of the Valke. “I’m not reading anything into their big loss against the Vodacom Cheetahs,” he told keo.co.za. “They will come out all guns blazing and it will be a tough and possibly scrappy game. But we are going to play to our strengths and stick with our structures.”
Vodacom WP: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Zhahier Ryland, 13. Sarel Potgieter, 12. Corne Uys, 11. Egon Seconds, 10. Naas Olivier, 9. Paul Delport, 8. Robbie Diack, 7. Justin Melck, 6. Luke Watson (c), 5. Gerrie Britz, 4. Francois van der Merwe, 3. Juan Harris, 2. Huia Edmonds, 1. Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: 16. Hanyani Shimange, 17. Gerrit Dyman, 18. Selbourne Boome, 19. Rob Linde, 20. Pieter Louw, 21. Bolla Conradie, 22. De Wet Barry.
By Jon Cardinelli