Cape Town – Sometimes bringing back Springboks straight into a provincial team has a negative effect, but Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has called on his stars to help the side “get connected to a higher level” in Saturday’s showdown against the Sharks at Kings Park.
Coetzee says that with Boks returning to both teams, the match will take on Super Rugby proportions, and he wants his main men to display the form that made them the standout players for the national side against the All Blacks at Ellis Park last week.
Eben Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen in particular were outstanding against the world champions, while Siya Kolisi brought noticeable energy and physicality to the Bok effort once he replaced Willem Alberts just before halftime.
But the Sharks have also hauled out some big guns such as Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, as well as imposing lock Pieter-Steph du Toit to halt the Province pack that dominated the first-round match at Newlands.
“What we’ve seen throughout the week is the intensity at which they train and the accuracy that they bring to the team. Knowing you are in a semi-final, what better preparation can you ask for? To go to Durban against the Sharks and see where you are at that intensity of the knockout stages. We needed that,” Coetzee said.
“We spoke about Super Rugby intensity and that’s the case this weekend. Coming back to Currie Cup level, our Boks must maintain the same standards. I want the team to get connected to get to a higher level, and not drop to a lower standard. We are very proud of our Stormers Boks – they’ve really excelled in the Rugby Championship and we are looking forward to similar performances.”
There’s little more satisfying than putting one over your Bok teammate at provincial level, and all the ingredients are there for a few “handbag” situations. For Province, Etzebeth and Vermeulen won’t stand back for anyone, while Bismarck and “Beast” are the hard men for the Sharks.
WP captain Deon Fourie is fully aware of the potential for a bust-up or two, but is confident that his players will keep their cool in what will be a hostile environment. “They are pals from the Rugby Championship and there are no hard feelings. They are all professionals and know what we want to achieve,” Fourie told the Cape Times.
“In terms of our discipline, we were very disappointed about last week against the Lions as that was the most penalties we’ve conceded on defence alone. A team like the Sharks, with the players they have, will punish you if you concede a lot of penalties. It’s something we’ve spoken a lot about.”
But while both sets of forwards are strong, Province have the edge at the back, with speedsters such as Gio Aplon, Cheslin Kolbe and Gerhard van den Heever in their back-three.
Kolbe’s pace and ability to wriggle out of tackles has been a feature of WP’s attack this season, but Saturday will probably be the biggest game of his senior career up to now.
Opposition teams have put two or three defenders to keep him quieter in recent weeks, but WP backline coach Robbie Fleck believes the former Brackenfell High pupil – who turns only 20 later this month – can make a decisive impact once more.
“Playing for SA Under-20 in the World Cup was big, but I would say this is probably the biggest game he would’ve played in up to now. I want to see the same from him that he’s shown through the competition. I think he’s done exceptionally well and for me, he is one of the Currie Cup players of the year,” Fleck told the Cape Times.
“When teams are looking to mark him now because he is such a serious threat, he still has that ability to do a bit of damage – like he again did against the Lions at the weekend. If our forwards can get us good quick ball, then he can do some damage.”
Meanwhile, Juan de Jongh’s chances of running out at Kings Park on Saturday are “50/50” due to a hamstring problem and if he is ruled out, it won’t mean that Bok captain Jean de Villiers will start either.
“I think it’s 50/50 with Juan. He hasn’t torn anything, but it’s just very stiff. Obviously we don’t want to risk anything. We want him to be available for the semi-finals. He is coming up to Durban, along with Mikey van der Spuy, but if he is feeling any sort of stiffness at captain’s (practice), then we’re not going to play him,” Fleck said.
“We’ve said to Jean that we would like to give him a break, and he’s had that break this week. If it comes to Juan being out, it is more than likely that Mikey would start rather than Jean. Mikey has played at outside centre in the last two games.”
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Patrick Lambie, 22 Louis Ludik.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh/Michael van der Spuy, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Frans Malherbe, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Jean de Villiers.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan.
Kickoff: 7.10pm. TV: M-Net/SS1/SS HD1.