Cape Town – While coach John Dobson has bolstered the Western Province side with a couple of Stormers players, the return of lock Adré Smith from injury is the most significant development ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Blue Bulls.
Dobson enlisted the likes of Clayton Blommetjies at fullback, Angelo Davids at left wing and loose forwards Willie Engelbrecht and Marcel Theunissen for the Cape Town Stadium showdown (6.30pm kickoff) when he announced his match-23 on Friday.
Province have won just one of their last five matches since beating the Bulls 41-33 at Loftus Versfeld on March 17, going down to the Sharks, Griquas, Cheetahs and Pumas, while seeing off the Griffons.
So, they need to get back into semi-final contention by knocking over the Bulls once more, as they are currently sixth on 16 points, one behind the Pretoria side and three adrift of fourth-placed Griquas.
Apart from the Stormers squad members, Dobson has shifted Junior Springbok captain Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu to inside centre after he started at fullback in the 25-24 loss to the Pumas last week.
Experienced flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis has been handed the captaincy in place of the injured centre Juan de Jongh.
Youngster Dylan de Leeuw will also get a long-awaited start at No 4 lock, but it’s in the second row where the Stormers are a bit thin as Springbok Salmaan Moerat is out for the season, while Ernst van Rhyn is also reportedly going to miss the rest of the campaign with a knee injury ahead of his move to Sale Sharks in England.
The other No 4 lock, Ruben van Heerden, is under an injury cloud too, and a final call will be made on him next week ahead of the United Rugby Championship quarter-final against the Bulls.
That is why Dobson will be delighted to see Smith make his comeback from a toe injury that he sustained in the loss to Cardiff last October. It was feared that he wouldn’t play again this season, but he started training with the squad last week already.
Now he will come on off the bench for WP against the Bulls on Saturday night, and if the former Griquas hard man comes through unscathed, he could boost the Stormers pack for next weekend’s playoff.
“We have seen some encouraging signs over the last few weeks, despite not getting the results we might have wanted. We want to build on those performances, and have backed the players that have done the job so far for us this season,” Dobson said on Friday.
“It is great to be back at DHL Stadium in front of our supporters ,and we want to make the most of that in what should be a classic North-South Currie Cup game.”
Western Province team: 15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Luke Burger 13 Cornel Smit 12 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu 11 Angelo Davids 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis (captain) 9 Godlen Masimla 8 Keke Morabe 7 Marcel Theunissen 6 Willie Engelbrecht 5 Connor Evans 4 Dylan de Leeuw 3 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko 2 Scarra Ntubeni 1 Ali Vermaak.
Bench: 16 André-Hugo Venter 17 Kwenzo Blose 18 Corné Weilbach 19 Gary Porter 20 Adré Smith 21 Junior Pokomela 22 Thomas Bursey 23 Damian Markus.