Cape Town - While Western Province suffered their umpteenth injury in the loose forward department, coach Allister Coetzee’s biggest conundrum this week will be the make-up of his back three for Saturday’s crucial Currie Cup match against the Sharks.
Rynhardt Elstadt has been ruled out for the next three weeks after he suffered a hairline fracture to one of his ribs in the 29-22 victory over the Cheetahs. Good news, however, is the return of Tyrone Holmes, who should slot right into the No 7 jersey for the Durban clash.
But it’s the return to fitness of fullback Joe Pietersen that is giving Coetzee a few headaches.
The incumbent fullback Gio Aplon has been sensational in the No 15 jersey for Province over the last few weeks, especially after being given license to express himself in the Cape side’s more attacking gameplan.
Aplon scored a cracker of a try on Saturday against the Cheetahs, benefitting from a great offload by Marcel Brache, before chipping over the Free State side’s defence to crash over near the posts.
Aplon’s underrated left boot has also complimented flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis’s accurate right boot when Province has had to clear their lines or kick for the corner.
Pietersen is also good on the counter, with his try against the Highlanders in Super Rugby earlier this year one of the few sparkling moments produced by the Stormers’ this season. He also has a great right boot, and is also a more than adequate goal-kicker.
But there seems to be good chemistry between Aplon and the two wings Gerhard van der Heever and Damian de Allende at the moment.
It looks like Coetzee has yet to make up his mind before Wednesday’s team announcement, as he wiggled around in his chair when the question about Pietersen’s possible inclusion came up.
He did suggest, though, that fullback might not be the only option for the former Matie, which means that we might even see Pietersen playing on the wing or off the bench against the Sharks.
“That’s not going to be an easy call to make,” Coetzee told a press conference at the WP High Performance Centre in Bellville on Monday. “For me, I would like some continuity, when a team is winning why must you change it. So I have got to weigh that up.
“I must say Gio had one of his best games of the season at fullback (against the Cheetahs). Gio is never your number one fullback, but because of the injuries he has been playing there now and you can see his full potential coming out.”
Meanwhile, Coetzee said yesterday that Catrakilis’s deal with the Eastern Province Kings, who will make their Super rugby debut next season, is not quite finalised.
“At this point in time he has got an offer from the Kings, and as I understand it is up to us to match or whether we can match it,” the WP coach said. “So it’s not cut and dry yet. But I’m not sure (when we must make a decision).”