Western Province coach John Dobson says he’s excited to have both Damian Willemse and Robert du Preez in the starting team to face the Blue Bulls at Loftus tomorrow (kick-off 2.30pm, SS1).
Willemse will start at fullback in the absence of Dillyn Leyds, who will make his first Test start for the Springboks against the Wallabies today.
Robert du Preez, pictured, made his Currie Cup appearances off the bench this season while Willemse started in the No 10 jersey, and the duo will form the halfback pairing with Jano Vermaak.
Willemse has at times struggled with his tactical kicking, and at the team announcement yesterday, Dobson said the fact Willemse has played at fullback before should make the positional shift an easy one.
“We’re expecting the Bulls to play with a lot of tempo, and an attacking style of rugby, so Damian may not be tested in terms of a sophisticated kicking game. Rob has also done very well in terms of game management and organisation and it’s an important game,” Dobson said.
“But we want Damian in the team and the way we want to attack we’re going to use both of them often in first-receiver roles.”
“Damian has outstanding ability on the counter-attack, defensively he’s also very good. He’s also played pre-season games at fullback, and having him and Rob gives us options, both in terms of goal-kicking, field position, X-factor and organisation. So we’re quite excited.”
In other changes to the backline, Huw Jones and EW Viljoen return from minor injuries to start at inside and outside centre respectively and restore WP’s regular midfield partnership while Ruhan Nel, who started at outside centre against Griquas last week, will feature off the bench
The only changes up front come in the front row as Ramone Samuels and Frans van Wyk start at hooker and tighthead prop, with Ali Vermaak, Dean Muir and Wilco Louw providing cover on the bench.
Dobson confirmed that prop Michael Kumbirai wasn’t available for the North-South derby due to a sore back, and said they’re hoping to produce a sustained scrummaging performance with Wilco Louw adding some impact in the second half
Skipper Chris van Zyl also added that the team are looking forward to making this away game a successful one.
Province have failed to win any of their away matches this Currie Cup season, and their away-from-home disappointments included defeats to the Free State Cheetahs, Griquas and the Pumas.
But now, with three round-robin away games remaining against the Blue Bulls, the Golden Lions and the Sharks, Province have a chance to prove there’s no “away issue”.
“It’s definitely not an away-issue. We’re looking forward to playing these last three round-robin games away to prove everybody wrong,” Van Zyl said.
WP: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Ruhan Nel.