CAPE TOWN – After stepping up to the challenge and creating excitement in the Stormers jersey, flyhalf Damian Willemse will make his Western Province Currie Cup debut when they host the Pumas at Newlands on Saturday (1pm kickoff).
Coach John Dobson has made several changes to his side for their second Currie Cup match after suffering a 30-17 defeat to the Cheetahs in their season opener.
And, this time, the team boasts almost an entirely Super Rugby outfit, unlike last week, where they fielded a hybrid of Super Rugby experience and SuperSport Challenge players.
Fullback SP Marais and wings Seabelo Senatla and Dillyn Leyds will form the outside backs, while EW Viljoen and Dan Kriel will partner in midfield, with Michal Hazner, who started in Bloemfontein, providing cover on the bench.
Willemse will form the halfback pairing with Justin Phillips, with Jano Vermaak adding some experience on the bench.
In the loose trio, Nizaam Carr comes into the mix at No 8 in the place of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who “had his knee cleaned out” after there was swelling following the Cheetahs game, while Steph de Wit and Kobus van Dyk will pack down at No 6 and 7 respectively.
Johan du Toit and Jaco Coetzee will add loose trio back-up among the replacements.
The second-row pairing of JD Schickerling and captain Chris van Zyl is the only combination that remains unchanged, and the only other new faces come in the front row, where Ali Vermaak is joined by hooker Bongi Mbonambi and Frans van Wyk.
JC Janse van Rensburg and Currie Cup debutant Michael Kumbirai will add grunt from the bench, along with hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who featured off the bench the week after a long injury layoff.
Dobson said that the spirit in the camp during training this week was full of energy, while he also added that they couldn’t afford to underestimate the Pumas.
“There was energy in the camp last week, but this week we’ve had more time to prepare. The guys who came back into training this week came back full of energy,” the coach said.
“That is the consequence of last week (complacency), and we can’t take any chances this week. If we mess up against the Pumas, our season is really in trouble.
“Had we beaten the Cheetahs, it might have been a concern. But there’s no room for complacency this weekend.”
Western Province Team
15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Steph de Wit, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Johan du Toit, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Michal Hazner.