Former Griquas hooker Tiaan Liebenberg is excited about his burgeoning career with Vodacom Western Province, which kicks off against the Valke at Newlands tomorrow.
WP coach Kobus van der Merwe said at a press conference on Wednesday that Liebenberg’s arrival is very fortunate as it provides some much needed depth at hooker.
Hanyani Shimange has been ruled out because of his Springbok contract obligations, and despite his inclusion on the bench this week, Huia Edmonds is still struggling with a lower back injury. First-choice No 2 Schalk Brits is still out after undergoing surgery to his knee in July, and is unlikely to rejoin the team before the end of the season.
“I discussed the move with Kobus earlier in the season, and we worked out an agreement with the Griquas union for me to be released if it looked like we were out of contention for the semi-finals,” Liebenberg said.
“And now that Shimange has been called up [to the Boks] it gives me a great opportunity. It was a surprise for me to come down to Province this early, but I am very excited.”
Liebenberg scored a memorable try against WP when Griquas hosted the Cape Town side in Round 1, and has been a solid performer for his province and the Vodacom Cheetahs in the Super 14 this season. The 25-year-old leaves Kimberley after four seasons, a tenure that saw him obtaining over 50 caps.
The test of his provincial allegiance will come as soon as 30 September, when Griquas play their final game at Newlands. But for now, the Valke match is his primary focus.
“I have the advantage of having played them twice already this season [where Griquas won 36-27 in Kimberley, but lost 8-23 in Brakpan]. Both games were very intense and competitive, especially up front.”
In an act of good faith, WP have returned the favour by loaning winger Chumani Booi to the Northern Cape side for two weeks. This move is intended to aid Griquas with their own injury problems.