Vodacom Western Province’s young stars Gio Aplon and Robbie Diack will miss the final league game against Griquas on Saturday.
Fullback Aplon has been struggling with a hip injury sustained in the Lions game last week and will not be risked by the WP management. The multi-talented Joe Pietersen replaces him at 15 as a result, and Egon Seconds moves onto the wing for Zhahier Ryland, who is out with a pectoral tear for the rest of the season.
Diack sits out for the first time in the competition with a stomach bug, which allows 20 year old Francois Louw to come in at No. 8. Justin Melck is expected to return to the bench after being sidelined with a hamstring problem for two weeks.
Although their situation is not quite as dire as that of the Lions, Province will be watching the result of the match at Loftus Versfeld very closely. They need a win against Griquas to guarantee a place in the playoffs, but a victory by the Vodacom Cheetahs against the Vodacom Bulls will see WP playing a semi-final at Newlands against the Sharks.
Province will be mindful of the lapses in concentration that characterised their last meeting with Griquas, which eventually saw them win by 27-23. Their defence has also been shaky in their last two big meetings with the Lions last week, and the Cheetahs two weeks prior to that.
Despite the loss, WP are likely to make a few more changes to allow injured players some game time before the competition enters the knockout stage. Locks Ross Skeate and Selborne Boome are tipped to start at Newlands, whilst a fit JD Moller will return in place of Schalk Ferreira at loosehead.
Werner Greef is also a favourite to start in the inside centre position, but will only do so if a club rugby judiciary finds him innocent of foul play in his comeback game. Greeff was ejected from a club match between Victorians and UCT after receiving a second yellow card last Wednesday.