Western Province coach, John Dobson (centre), expects a physical battle against the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - Western Province coach John Dobson expects there to be “no shortage of needle” in the top-of-the-table Currie Cup clash against the Sharks at Newlands tomorrow (2pm kickoff).

Although the personnel has changed markedly on both sides from last year’s final in Durban, the stakes have again been raised with both teams heading into the contest unbeaten.

Equally, the visitors have a host of former Province players in their ranks, such as halfback pairing Robert du Preez and Louis Schreuder, wings Kobus van Wyk and Leolin Zas, and young flank Luke Stringer.

“We are very excited, looking forward to it a lot. People don’t realise that there are 10 guys who didn’t start last year’s final, so it’s a new team. We have two Springboks starting and they have nine. It is a big challenge for us, but there is so much belief in this team and enjoyment. We can’t wait,” Dobson said.

“I think there’s going to be no shortage of needle. There are lot of guys who are there who were here, so I expect people to throw themselves around a bit. I think it is going to be a cracker of a Currie Cup game.”

Plenty of focus will undoubtedly be on Du Preez’s return to Newlands. The Sharks pivot was central to WP’s two victories over his current employers last year, including the final in Durban, and his battle with current WP No 10 Josh Stander will be critical.

“He seems to be in a slightly different role at the Sharks than in what we had him over here,” Dobson said. “He is obviously very much the general there, and the driver and organiser. Here he was more playing his position, natural flyhalf, but there he seems to be working quite hard on organising things. We know Rob quite well, and hopefully know what buttons to push.”

Dobson, though, believes Stander will be up for the challenge. “I think when Josh came here at the turn of the year, he was very much a traditional Blue Bulls-style flyhalf. He was pretty deep in the pocket with a good kicking game. But if you had seen Josh at Queens, he was an outstanding attacking flyhalf. I think we are beginning to see the start of Josh in that role. I think Dawie Snyman and Paul Feeney deserve a lot of credit for that,” he said.

“He was superb when he came on against the Sharks (in Super Rugby), and I think he is evolving more and more into an attacking threat. I think he is a work in progress, but the progress has been a lot. I thought he was a traditional South African flyhalf relying on his kicking game, but we now have him a lot flatter and his skill level is good and he is enjoying his rugby.”

Stander will have Ruhan Nel outside him after the centre was released from the Bok squad yesterday.

The Star

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