Cape Town – The spotlight will shine on Schalk Burger when he returns to action in Friday's Currie Cup clash between the Free State Cheetahs and Western Province in Bloemfontein.
The once-fiery flanker was named as a substitute in the Western Province 22-man squad to do duty at the Free State Stadium.
“Almost two years have passed and Schalk has gone through a lot (injury complications and illness),” head coach Allister Coetzee said on Tuesday.
“He has come through training very well and his inclusion in the squad is part of his comeback process.
“I think he can play for more than 20 minutes but we're not sure at what stage of the match he'll run out.”
Burger was very positive about playing again and needed to know there was no pressure on him, Coetzee said.
“We don't expect him to be at his best and merely having him around the players brings out his positive influence.
“It's just good to have him back and he'll feel like a new player when he comes on to play.
“The way he's been running at practice makes one think that he could be an even better player than what he's been in the past.”
The return of Burger coincided with the loss of centre Juan de Jongh, who had been called to the national squad.
“We are happy for Juan although we would have liked him to be playing for us,” the coach said.
“We won't stand in the way of any player's progress and it is one of the things that we set out to achieve at Western Province - turning out Springboks.
Michael van der Spuy would fill in for De Jongh.
“Michael has bided his time and he knows how we play. He was earmarked to play earlier this season but he suffered an injury.”
Flank Michael Rhodes, who served a one-match ban, and captain Deon Fourie were fit to return to the run-on XV and partner Nizaam Carr in the loose trio.
Coetzee said the team would be looking to add the finishing touches to enhance their potential scoring opportunities and expected a harder, firmer surface on which to step up their intensity.
“We have created so many opportunities in matches this season but we’ve never rounded off well enough.”
Although unbeaten after seven rounds, Province had yet to collect a bonus point for four or more tries in a match this season.
As a result, despite two defeats, the Sharks were lying on top of the log after chalking up four bonus points.
Western Province team: Gio Aplon; Gerhard van den Heever, Michael van der Spuy, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt Coleman, Nic Groom, Nizaam Carr, Michael Rhodes, Deon Fourie (captain), De Kock Steenkamp, Taz Fuzani, Pat Cilliers, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Michael Willemse, Brok Harris, Gerbrandt Grobler, Schalk Burger, Josh Katzen, Louis Schreuder, Demetri Catrakilis. – Sapa