Burton Francis will start at flyhalf when WP host the Sharks at Newlands this Saturday.
Francis was used sparingly as a substitute during the recent Super Rugby competition, as primary goal-kicker Peter Grant was favoured. With Grant having left Cape Town to play for another season in Japan, Francis has a chance to make the position his own for the duration of the Currie Cup.
Coach Allister Coetzee rates Gary van Aswegen highly, and when fit, he is considered the best alternative to Grant. However, Van Aswegen has struggled with injuries this past season which is why he wasn’t picked to start.
Meanwhile Coetzee has made a total of 11 changes to the side that started in the Super Rugby semi-final. Gerhard van den Heever comes into the starting line-up on the right wing, while Gio Aplon moves to the left to replace Bryan Habana, who is on national duty.
Marcel Brache and JP du Plessis are entrusted with the midfield responsibilities, while there is change to the back row. Deon Fourie shifts from No 8 to openside flank, Tyrone Holmes replaces the injured Rynhardt Elstadt at No 7, and Jebb Sinclair will pack down at the back of the scrum. Fourie will captain the side for the season.
Coetzee said that Elstadt’s groin injury is not serious but that the lock-come-flank would not be available for the first two matches of the season.
Don Armand, who was used primarily as a loose forward in the Super Rugby competition, will start at No 4 alongside De Kock Steenkamp. Frans Malherbe is favoured ahead of veteran tighthead Brok Harris. Deon Carstens comes into the starting team due to Steven Kitshoff’s knee injury.
Kitshoff is expected to be back in the mix next week.
WP – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Deon Carstens.
Subs: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Brok Harris, 18 JC Kritzinger, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Damian de Allende.