Crocks and Boks threaten WP cause

Injuries and Springbok mandates will precipitate numerous changes to the Vodacom Western Province side playing the Valke at Newlands this Saturday.

Despite reports to the contrary, WP will not have the services of De Wet Barry, Hanyani Shimange and Eddie Andrews for the remainder of their Absa Currie Cup campaign. Along with the injured Marius Joubert, they have all been withdrawn in preparation for the Springbok end of year tour.

Province have also suffered a few injury setbacks after last week’s 28-13 loss to Free State in Bloemfontein. Flanker Justin Melck did not train at all on Tuesday due to a hamstring strain, and form lock Francois van der Merwe watched the practice from the sidelines. JD Moller also has a slight niggle and is expected to play off the bench as a precaution.

Van der Merwe picked up a shoulder injury against the Vodacom Cheetahs, and is still waiting on scan results to assess the extent of the damage. He will miss this weekend’s match regardless.

“I’m disappointed to be missing out, but at the same time I have faith in our depth,” he told keo.co.za. “We have been looking at this game as a must-win, and we’d love to get the bonus point as well.

“We have a real tough one at Ellis Park [against the Lions] next week. It’s important that we pick up some momentum before heading into that game.”

WP and the Valke met earlier this season in Brakpan, where the scoreline flattered the hosts at 40-31. But the men in red did show their intentions to play attacking rugby.

“Nothing halts momentum like losing, and the pressure is definitely building on us to secure a home semi-final. This weekend is a big game for us, especially in the forwards. The Valke like to keep it tight, and don’t spoil as much as the other smaller unions. They’re competitive.”

Van der Merwe is likely to replaced by one of Andries Bekker or Selborne Boome, as Ross Skeate is yet to return to the training field. Skeate twisted his ankle against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Newlands on 1 September.

Schalk Ferreira should start in this fixture ahead of JD Moller, who is carrying a slight knee injury. “It’s not really that serious,” the big loosehead assured this website. “I should be back in training on Thursday and ready for the Valke this weekend. My knee may require treatment at the end of the season, but it won’t be anything major.”

The WP team will be announced this Thursday at noon.

By Jon Cardinelli