Jean de Villiers will replace Gcobani Bobo as captain for WP’s clash with Free State this Saturday.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has included eight returning Springboks in his starting side. The decision to award De Villiers the captaincy was not a difficult one, says Coetzee.
“Jean is one of the senior Springboks and coming back from national duty he was a natural choice. I think Bobes did very well this season and there are no hard feelings [over De Villiers's appointment].”
The Bok No 12 said becoming WP captain was something he always aspired to.
“I grew up in the Western Cape so WP has always been a very big part of my life. It will be my first game as WP captain this Saturday and that’s going to be a special moment for me.”
De Villiers resumes his midfield partnership with Bobo in exactly the same backline that started for the Stormers earlier this season. Ricky Januarie and Peter Grant are reinstated as the halfback pair while Conrad Jantjes also returns at 15. Sireli Naqelevuki is back from Fiji and has been entrusted with a start.
Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger and Luke Watson will boost a WP pack that certainly has their work cut out for them against a traditionally powerful Free State unit.
“I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen in the past four sessions,” said Coetzee. “The Boks have told us they want to play this weekend and it’s good to see that they will still live and die for WP.
“It will be a challenge for those combinations and I’d love to see them clicking like they did in the Super 14. But for someone like Peter Grant who has been out for five or six weeks with injury, I am not expecting miracles.”
Coetzee said it was important that Province keep the youngsters coming through. Loosehead Wicus Blaauw is retained while 19-year-old Nick Koster will play from the bench.
“Wicus’s rise in this year’s Currie Cup has been one of the highlights. He’s matured as a scrummager and his all-round play has improved.”
Bok fullback Percy Montgomery was not considered for this fixture because of a stomach bug while lock Ross Skeate is battling with a shoulder injury.
Western Province - 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Subs: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 AJ Venter, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Wylie Human.
By Jon Cardinelli