Coach Allister Coetzee is confident that his team of rising stars won’t allow first place on the overall Currie Cup standings to go to their heads, but he’s less assured about the possibility of Western Province breaking their poor record against the third-placed Sharks in Durban this week.
“The Sharks have beaten us the last couple of times, it’s almost like they’ve got our number,” Coetzee said.
Indeed, Province have only beaten the Sharks at King’s Park four times since 1992. Even though less than half of the team that is named today for the trip to Durban will be haunted by a flashback of the 2010 Currie Cup Final implosion, most were close enough to the Stormers camp to remember a 25-20 reverse on the east coast during the league phase of this year’s Super 15 competition, and the ferocity of the Sharks pack that feasted on the hosts at Newlands during the ensuing semi-final defeat.
“We haven’t beaten the Sharks (in Durban) this year, and it’s never going to be easy up at King’s Park,” Coetzee continued. “So it’s another big challenge for us. We want to get it right this time, and we’re working hard to do that.”
The Province coach shrugged off the Sharks’ most recent result, a 22-15 loss against Griquas in Kimberley.
“Whether they won or lost doesn’t make any difference to us,” he said. “It’s an away game and an important one, and we have to keep the winning culture going.”
Province have reclaimed top spot with successive wins against the Blue Bulls and Cheetahs, and Coetzee believes that the desire to remain ahead of the chasing pack will keep grounded a team that is brimful with rookies and juniors.
“You can trust young players. These laaities have really taken the opportunity, they’re coachable, they’re quick learners, and they like that when they do well, there’s a chance to play Super Rugby,” added the WP coach.
“They also understand that we’ve lost a home game (25-23 against the Sharks in the season-opener) and we need to make up for that by winning away. We’ve got three home games and two away in the second round and we want to continue improving.”
The team was scheduled to be announced today and gifted three-quarter Damian de Allende was expected to make way for veteran Joe Pietersen who has recovered from a wrist injury suffered in the season-opener.
With Pietersen at fullback, Bok flyer Gio Aplon was likely to shift to left wing while fit-again fetcher Tyrone Holmes was a shoo-in to replace injured blindside flanker Rynhardt Elstadt.
Referee Lourens van der Merwe, who officiated WP’s 42-6 victory over the Bulls, will whistle the coastal derby on Saturday night.