CAPE TOWN - Western Province assistant coach Dawie Snyman is confident that fullback Craig Barry will carry a bit of the “X-factor” that he put on show in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge into his Currie Cup debut against the Free State Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday (3pm kickoff)
The No 15 spot opened up for Barry when SP Marais was ruled out with injury and Dillyn Leyds was included in the Springbok squad for their tour to Australasia. And now the Maties star will form Province’s back three alongside Sevens specialists Werner Kok and Ruhan Nel.
“Craig has great organisational skills, he’s a great communicator from the back. He also reads play well,” Snyman said. “He also has X-factor when it comes to receiving the ball and on the counter-attack. He showed in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge that he can find space and attack.”
Kok, who last played fifteens in 2016, gets his chance in the absence of Seabelo Senatla, who Snyman confirmed is struggling with a hamstring niggle.
And although it’s been a while since Kok has pestered his opposition in the 15-man game with his massive work rate that is often seen at the breakdowns and on defence, Snyman wasn’t too bothered about any rustiness.
“He (Senatla) has got a slight hamstring injury, we didn’t want to take a risk with that. I’m quite confident about Werner, he’s got a good understanding of the game. In terms of the space he has to cover ... it’s a little bit different to Sevens. It’s just about his positional play and making sure him, Craig and Ruhan combine well,” Snyman said.
In total, WP have made five changes for their home game against the Free State team, and loosehead prop Ali Vermaak, who returns from injury, will earn his 50th cap for Province as one of those changes.
Vermaak will pack down alongside hooker Ramone Samuels and tighthead Wilco Louw, while prop Michael Kumbirai, who’s been pleasing in his appearances off the bench, will offer cover among the replacements.
With Scarra Ntubeni injured again and Bongi Mbonambi on Bok duty, Chad Solomon - who featured for WP in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge - will provide back-up for Samuels in the No 2 position.
The only other changes to the forwards are on the replacements bench, with Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Kobus van Dyk providing loose forward cover.
In the backline, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak returns to form the halfback pairing with flyhalf Damian Willemse, and Snyman said that opting for Willemse instead of fit-again Robert du Preez was important in terms of continuity. However, he also added that Du Preez would be “eased in” to make sure that they have two fit-and-ready pivots to choose from should they choose to mix things up for certain fixtures.
Western Province team: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Werner Kok, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Ruhan Nel, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Ali Vermaak. Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Michael Kumbirai, 18 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Dan Kriel.