Bull slayers roll on to Bloem

Kobus van der Merwe has named an unchanged starting side to the one that beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Newlands last week.

Second rower Ross Skeate’s minor ankle ailment means that he will sit out of this fixture, and so the promising young loose forward, Francois Louw comes in on the bench.

Although Justin Melck and Robbie Diack did not participate in Tuesday’s training session, they have been named to play against Free State in Bloemfontein. Pieter Louw is also amongst the reserves, but the WP management have decided to provide cover in the event that both Melck and Diack break down.

At a media conference held at Newlands today, the Vodacom Western Province coach confessed that his team will face a huge challenge this Friday.

“We need to keep our composure this weekend, and it will be a great chance to see if we can maintain our consistency in producing two big performances in a row,” he said. “But we are expecting the Cheetahs to come at us with everything they have, and they will be dangerous after the loss last week.

“It should be a great spectacle of a game with both teams playing some good running rugby.”

Both the coach and the captain admitted that the Cheetahs will have targeted this home game as one where they need to pick up the points. After this week, they have a demanding run into the playoffs playing the Pumas away, the Sharks at home and finally the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

“There is nothing between the top sides on the log at the moment, even the Lions have a strong chance of getting into the semi-finals. But at the business end of the Currie Cup, you need to win these games. It can be a great psychological advantage in the playoffs.”

The Free State side is yet to be named, but it is expected that Rassie Erasmus will make a few changes in selection. Van der Merwe complimented his opposite number, saying that it was always a challenge to play against Erasmus’ side.

“It’s always a bit of a strategic battle where Rassie’s involved. His tactical planning is always phenomenal.”

Eddie Andrews was not considered for this game, as he has rejoined the Springbok camp. This weekend will mark the watershed of Springbok involvement in the Absa Currie Cup, and so the 24 originally contracted national players will be withdrawn from the competition.

However, due to the changes in selection throughout the Test season, there is some confusion as to who will rest up ahead of the end-of-year tour, and who will play out the Currie Cup.

“We are having a meeting in Johannesburg on Friday to clarify the matter,” said WP Rugby boss Rob Wagner. “There has been some confusion over who exactly is being rested and who is being allowed to play on, but it should all be resolved on Friday.”

Wagner said that it shouldn’t effect the current WP squad, as both De Wet Barry and Hanyani Shimange have not been included on the provisional list of players to be withdrawn from the domestic tournament.

Vodacom WP: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Sireli Naqelevuki, 13. Corne Uys, 12. De Wet Barry, 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. Juan Harris, 2. Hanyani Shimange, 1. JD Moller, Reserves: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Andries Bekker, 19. Francois Louw, 20. Pieter Louw, 21. Paul Delport, 22. Sarel Potgieter.

by Jon Cardinelli