Injuries and suspensions have forced Western Province to alter their pack ahead of a crucial home clash against Griquas.
Province have dropped down the Currie Cup table to third place following Saturday’s defeat in Durban. With only four matches remaining in the league phase, they need to bounce back quickly. Winning at Newlands this weekend against the lowest-ranked team in the Premier Division is vital to their hosting a play-off.
What will make this task difficult is the shortage of experienced personnel. WP are still feeling the effects of a horrendous Super Rugby season, where they lost a string of first, second and even third-choice loose forwards due to injuries.
To make matters worse, flanker Tyrone Holmes has been suspended following his transgression in last week’s match.
This has forced coach Allister Coetzee to reshuffle his forward pack in order to field a competitive back row. Deon Fourie, Don Armand and Jebb Sinclair all boast Super Rugby experience, and will start in the back row this Saturday. Armand is moved to blindside flank this week after spending the whole domestic season at lock.
Holmes was suspended for punching, and Sinclair was fortunate to escape further sanction for his own brawling in Durban. However, Coetzee has confirmed that Sinclair has been dealt with internally.
‘We’re in a situation where we’re picking what’s available,’ the WP coach said. ‘We’re thankful that Jebb can play this week. He understands that there is a team protocol with regards to discipline and that [the offence at Kings Park that led to his ejection] is unacceptable. His pocket has taken a big hit after that.
‘Don came into the side as a No 7 and we’ve converted him into a No 4. I think he’s done an exceptional job in the second row, and he will be able to do a job now for us at flank.
‘JJ Gagiano has trained with us before, and he’s played international rugby [with the USA]. So he’s been in the system and should add value this weekend.’
Wilhelm van der Sluys is promoted to the starting line-up to replace Armand in the second row. Coetzee has also reinstated props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe in the run-on side.
In the backs, Joe Pietersen’s return to the starting side sees Gio Aplon shifting from fullback to wing. Damian de Allende drops to the bench as a result.
Louis Schreuder is also preferred ahead of Nic Groom at scrumhalf. The inclusion of Pietersen and Schreuder in the starting XV will bolster WP’s kicking game, which is very necessary considering the attacking threat of Griquas and the likelihood of rain on Saturday.
‘Griquas are a formidable side. They have a big pack of forwards and also a lot of X-factor players like Willie le Roux, who has been one of the best runners in the competition,’ said Coetzee.
‘We will continue with our processes to develop a balanced game, but considering the weather and the way Griquas play, we will have to make sure we play in the right areas of the field.
‘We also have to look at where we are in the competition, this is an important game for us and playing at Newlands we have to get back to winning ways.’
WP – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie (c), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Helmut Lehmann, 18 JJ Gagiano, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Damian de Allende.
By Jon Cardinelli