CAPE TOWN – Western Province captain Chris van Zyl says he is expecting the Free State Cheetahs to be “hungry to impress” when they meet at Newlands today (3pm kickoff).
With the Cheetahs’ front-liners playing in the PRO14 in Europe, Province would be forgiven for thinking of their match against the Cheetahs as merely a formality.
But Van Zyl knows better than to underestimate the “underdogs”.
And at the team announcement on Thursday, the WP skipper was expecting not only a desperate Cheetahs outfit, but one that will be better prepared than the one than took a 45-15 hammering from the Sharks last week.
“It was their first game together (against the Sharks), so you could see they lacked a bit of continuity. But they won’t be the same as last week, I think they’ve found each other a bit better.
“A lot of those guys will believe that they should be playing overseas, so they’ll want to prove themselves. So as much as they might not be their number ones, they’ll believe that.”
“And that’s quite a dangerous thing – guys that are hungry to impress. They’ll be seeing themselves as the underdogs, and that’s always dangerous,” Van Zyl said.
And although the lock was wary of what the Cheetahs could dish up in Cape Town, he was adamant that his team was focused on their own preparations, rather than on the threats the opposition could bring.
“We try to be internally focused and measure ourselves on our performance and not on the opposition’s. So, we always try and maintain our standards.”
For Province, Craig Barry will start at fullback in the place of the injured SP Marais, while Dillyn Leyds, who can also make a seamless transition to No 15, is on tour with the Springboks.
Wing Werner Kok will also be one to watch as he gets some Currie Cup action after recovering from injury, while replacement hooker Chad Solomon – who featured for Province in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge – also gets a Currie Cup chance in the absence of Scarra Ntubeni, who is on the casualty list again.
Province will also welcome back some experience in the form of loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who returns from injury.
For the Cheetahs, Ernst Stapelberg – who recently moved to Bloemfontein – will look to go from being a Varsity Cup playmaker for Maties to a Cheetahs mainstay.
Teams For Newlands
Western Province: 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.
Bench: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Michael Kumbirai, 18 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Dan Kriel.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Marco Mason, 14 Carel Jan Coetzee, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Steph Janse van Rensburg, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 JP Smith, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Chris Dry (captain), 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Dennis Visser, 4 Nicolaas Immelman, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Johan Kotze.
Bench: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Andrew Kuhn, 18 Siba Qoma, 19 Daniel Maartens, 20 Fifi Rampeta, 21 Dian Badenhorst, 22 Ryno Eksteen.