CAPE TOWN – Western Province will look to get their Currie Cup defence off to a strong start when they host the Free State Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off).
After a massive 59-14 pre-season victory against French side Narbonne in Millau in their first friendly of their two-match tour to Europe, it will be their 26-7 defeat to French powerhouse Montpellier thereafter that John Dobson’s side will hopefully have learnt more. The ‘Streeptruie’ host Daan Human’s side, who went down (34-12) at home against the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup-opener at the weekend.
While their nine-try performance against Pro D2 outfit Narbonne - in which hooker Scarra Ntubeni wore the captain's armband - should certainly do their confidence some good, it was their outing against a star-studded Montpellier side that will mean a lot more for Province's formidable young group.
In a match that was a pre-season clash for both sides, WP lost 26-7 last Thursday against a team that fielded five Springboks and one All Black as opposed to WP’s youthful side. Boks Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Johan Goosen, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis all formed part of the Montpellier squad.
It was also a match that showed the kind of talent WP have at their disposal, despite missing a big group of players due to their involvement in the Rugby Championship.
While Damian Willemse was unavailable due to Test duty, Dillyn leads started at No 10 and captained the side in the absence of injured skipper Chris van Zyl, while Josh Stander offered back-up on the bench - a solid option seeing that there are concerns about 24-year-old Jean-Luc du Plessis’ fitness.
The exciting lock pairing of JD Schickerling and Salmaan Moerat was also one that showed the promise of WP's depth. Out wide, Sergeal Petersen’s availability after injury offers more X-factor among already-exciting back three stocks, while scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies also continues to show that he has plans when it comes to the No 9 jumper.
And then there was also last year’s World Rugby Under-20 Player of the Year Juarno Augustus, who started in the back row.