The Valke have made four changes and three positional switches for the clash against Vodacom Western Province in Newlands on Saturday.
Fullback Jan Cloete makes a welcomed return to the team, with Riaan Viljoen shifting to the wing and Jovian Bowles dropping to the bench. Coach John Williams has also made a few tactical changes in the forwards, with lock Ryan Strudwick moving to the flank, and Jacques Nieuwenhuis moving up to eight man. As a result, Nico Luus moves into Strudwick’s former position at lock and Michael Vermaak sits in the reserves. The only other change to the starting line-up that lost 32-17 to the Lions last weekend is at loosehead prop, where Gavin Whittingham replaces Zane Kilian.
The move of Strudwick to flank is an interesting one. Vodacom Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus’ strategy of playing lock Barend Pieterse on the blindside flank proved successful against WP in Bloemfontein. This offered the Free State side more options in the line-out, and allowed them to build a secure platform from which to launch an attack.
“Ryan has been playing very well,” Valke captain Piet Krause told keo.co.za. “We wanted to play Nico [Luus] in this game, but you can’t leave a guy like Ryan out. He’s very strong at the breakdown and is a really competitive force in the line-out.
“We know how strong WP are in the line-out, and we just wanted to give ourselves more options.”
Locks Francois van der Merwe and Ross Skeate will miss this fixture due to injury. Krause doesn’t believe that their absence will make the challenge at Newlands any easier.
“They have a great bunch of youngsters coming through, so there’s plenty of depth,” he said.
The season is nearing a close for the side from Brakpan, and while their semi-final hopes have long since been quashed, there is still plenty of pride at stake.
“We’ve been our own worst enemy this year, as we have made too many basic errors,” Krause admitted. “We know that Province will come out to Newlands on Saturday and look to use us as a punching bag, and are probably viewing this game as an easy five points.
“But I don’t think that will be the case. It will be a tough match, and if we can cut out the mistakes and dominate in the forwards, we will be in with a chance.”
Valke: 15. Jan Cloete, 14. Riaan Viljoen, 13. Eugene Ungerer, 12. Hanno Coetzee, 11. Mpho Matsaung, 10. Louis Strydom, 9. Sarel Pretorius; 8. Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 7. Ryan Strudwick, 6. Piet Krause (captain), 5. Nico Luus, 4. Dewald Senekal, 3. Philip Lemmer, 2. Piet Grobler, 1. Gavin Whittingham.
Replacements: 16. Zane Kilian, 17. Attie Pienaar, 18. Michael Vermaak, 19. Sean Plaatjies, 20. Morne Adams, 21. Jovan Bowles, 22. Dean Okkers.
By Jon Cardinelli