CAPE TOWN - If there is one thing that Western Province coach John Dobson's selection headache for their Currie Cup-opener against the Free State Cheetahs has shown, it's the depth the union have at their disposal.
Dobson named Dillyn Leyds - who will start on the left wing and also captained the team against Montpellier in their second friendly - as captain. And although Dobson earlier this week explained that Leyds' best position is fullback, the big kicking game the hosts are expecting the Cheetahs to bring in wet conditions at Newlands (kick-off 5.15pm) heightened the need to have a few capable boots in their backline.
And it's the backline in particular that was a bit of a positive conundrum for Dobson. SP Marais will start at fullback, with JJ Engelbrecht on the right wing and Sergeal Petersen set to make his Western Province debut should he come off the bench. In the midfield, Blitzbok Ruhan Nel partners up with Dan Kriel, with the promising Dan du Plessis in the bench. Josh Stander will form the halfback pairing with Jano Vermaak, with the exciting Herschel Jantjies providing scrumhalf cover.
The selection of Engelbrecht and Leyds on the wing has kept the likes of Craig Barry and Duncan Saal out of the matchday squad, while Dobson also admitted that this week required a "horses for courses" selection, especially given the fact that the is no time for slip-ups in the single-round competition - every game, especially your home games, is a must win.
"Dillyn starting on the wing should show just how problematic the back three has been, the balancing of the backs is a good problem to have," Dobson said. Dobson also doesn't think that Leyds captaining from out wide inplace of the injured Chris van Zyl is an issue.
Earlier this week, Dobson explained that he is also considering JD Schickerling and Scarra Ntubeni for the temporary leadership in Chris van Zyl's absence due to injury, and he added that Schickerling and Ntubeni can conduct up front if needed.
“The days of leading the team by shouting all the time are long gone,” said Dobson. “Dillyn can address the team if we end up behind the poles, and we have JD (Schickerling) to lead the forwards and also Scarra Ntubeni to make the calls at the scrum.”
On his midfield selections, Dobson said: “Ruhan did not go on tour as he got married during that period. I don't know when last we had one but he certainly has the potential to become a double Springbok."
Up front, Sikhumbuzo Notshe has returned from the Springbok camp to take up his spot place in the loose trio alongside Kobus van Dyk and last year's World Rugby Under-20 Championship Player of the Tournament, Juarno Augustus. In the second row Salmaan Moerat will partner JD Schickerling, with Ernst van Rhyn on the bench.
Props Ali Vermaak and promising tighthead Michael Kumbirai will start on either side of hooker Scarra Ntubeni, with Caylib Oosthuizen, Neethling Fouche and Chad Solomon on the bench.
"Salmaan went 80 minutes against Montpellier and he didn't put a step backwards," Dobson said of the former SA Schools skipper. "They're were very impressed with him. I'm excited that we can give him this opportunity. This is probably one of the young lock pairings in South Africa...they're a classic pairing.
"JD has moved from four to five, he's starting to take ownership of the lineouts. Salmaan is a one of the players who's the future of this union. We've got two locks at the Springboks, Chris van Zyl is injured, so this perfectly reflects the depth of the union."
Western Province team: 15 SP Marais‚ 14 JJ Engelbrecht‚ 13 Ruhan Nel‚ 12 Dan Kriel‚ 11 Dillyn Leyds (captain)‚ 10 Josh Stander‚ 9 Jano Vermaak‚ 8 Juarno Augustus‚ 7 Kobus van Dyk‚ 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ 5 JD Schickerling‚ 4 Salmaan Moerat‚ 3 Michael Kumbirai‚ 2 Scarra Ntubeni‚ 1 Ali Vermaak. Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon‚ 17 Caylib Oosthuizen‚ 18 Neethling Fouche‚ 19 Ernst van Rhyn‚ 20 Herschel Jantjies‚ 21 Dan du Plessis‚ 22 Sergeal Petersen.