Johannesburg – The Western Province is ready for the Currie Cup season, which gets underway on Saturday against the Sharks at Newlands, their coach Allister Coetzee says.
“The players all looked refreshed at today's (Monday) session and I was pleased with the way it went,” he said in Bellville, Cape Town, on Monday.
Coetzee had spent the past few days nursing the squad, following the Stormers' dismal Super Rugby semifinal performance against the Sharks, two weeks ago.
He said: “It was important that we got over the Super Rugby disappointment and close that door completely behind us. It is now time to open the next door, which is the Currie Cup.
“For a couple of days after the semifinal the players were hurting, and the break away from rugby helped them to get over it. Mentally the loss was draining, but we'll be up for the task this weekend.”
With injuries still a problem, and Springbok call-ups, Coetzee said he was forced to cast his selection net wide to find personnel.
“I've looked at club rugby and saw what we could work with. I have invited several players, who I would like to give an opportunity because they deserve it.
“We will be relying on our Under-21 ranks for reserve stocks since they have a lot of talented players.
“With our Bok players out, it's going to be a challenge to field a strong team, and now that Quin Roux has left for Ireland, we've lost four locks.”
Coetzee was awaiting a medical report on flank Schalk Burger, who had not responded well to the rehabilitation programme for his knee. It seemed likely Burger would not play again this year.
Eighthman Duane Vermeulen was training on Monday, and it was likely he will be match-fit in a fortnight.
Another player on the injury list was flanker Nick Koster, who should be back next week for light training.
In the absence of Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Province would need a new leader, and Coetzee would name the skipper on Wednesday.
Province had backline players Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh, after they were controversially left out of the Bok squad.
Coetzee intended naming his Currie Cup squad later this week. It would include a few “buys” from outside the Province region.
“I've had to look elsewhere for reinforcements, although we prefer to give local players a chance,” said Coetzee.
“There are a few local players who keep working hard and who want to improve. We're are looking for players who can become dominant against quality opposition.” – Sapa