WP on red alert

Vodacom Western Province are not taking any chances against Griquas in the Absa Currie Cup on Saturday.

Kobus van der Merwe has announced his strongest side for the Kimberley match, which has added interest after Griquas’ shock victory over the Sharks two weeks ago.

“It’s always tough at Griquas, as they are a team who strive to get one over the big unions and they have done that against the Sharks this season,” said Van der Merwe, who coached Griquas in the Vodacom Cup last year.

While the WP starting XV remains unchanged, a few new faces appear on the bench with Ross Geldenhuys coming up from club rugby and Andries Bekker getting his first run this season off the bench.

“This is a very important game for us going into the second round. The guys want to keep playing and are still young and fresh enough to play every week. We would also like to finish in the top two going into the second round, and with consistent team it makes it easier to achieve.”

WP rugby boss Rob Wagner began the press conference by announcing Adri Badenhorst’s move to Agen in France, and gave him the traditional warm Western Province sendoff.

“I will always remember Adri as a leader and someone who was one of the most committed members of the team. We wish him luck in his future endeavours overseas,” Wagner said.

“We sometimes come in for criticism for letting players go. WP players are not faceless assets, they have families to think about towards the end of their careers.”

Wagner also clarified the status of Griquas hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and his bid to play for Province.

“Tiaan Liebenberg has not been signed to WP. We put an offer on the table but Griquas have the right to meet it. If they fail to meet it, we will discuss it with the coach and take it from there.”

WP are no longer the underdogs they were at the beginning of the season, and the captain Luke Watson is the first to admit this.

“Other teams are well prepared for us these days, but we need to keep our focus and concentrate on our own game,” he said.

Van der Merwe elaborated on the need for concentration, mentioning the first 20 minutes of the Lions game as a prime example.

“We were a bit shocked by the way they came at us, and we will be looking to tighten it up a bit against Griquas. I’ve coached them and I know what it’s like playing up there, it’s not easy.

“They should be strong in the forwards and we are expecting a great battle up front.”

The coach reiterated his point on giving these young players game time and the chance to develop at this level.

“The guys need to keep playing. We have the momentum at the moment. It may be a bit too early to predict anything, but we know how important it is to secure a home semi-final.

“Our particular style of play has got us this far, and although we will be looking to implement a more structured game in Kimberely, we will continue to play our natural game.”

In an injury update, winger Joe Pietersen will be out for another two weeks. Pietersen suffered concussion after a Gaffie du Toit high tackle in the fourth Absa Currie Cup game against Free State.

Vodacom Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Egon Seconds, 13 Corne Uys, 12 De Wet Barry, 11 Zhahier Ryland, 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 Huia Edmonds, 1 JD Moller. Replacements: 16 Hanyani Shimange, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Paul Delport, 21 Sarel Potgieter, 22 Chumani Booi.

By Jon Cardinelli at Newlands