Eastern Province suffered a major loss in the build-up to Friday night's Bankfin Cup semifinal clash with Border in East London when the promising young flanker, Luke Watson, withdrew from the team.

The 18-year old Watson, one of the most exiting young ball fetchers in the country, injured his lower back in the game against the Griffons last Saturday.

Watson received intensive medical treatment, but EP's medical team concluded on Wednesday morning that he will not be fit for the Border game.

The current eighth man, JJ Pienaar, will take up Watson's position on the open side of the scrum with instructions to hunt the ball on the ground.

The experienced, Jacques Greeff, will move up from the bench to fill Pienaar's spot at the back of the scrum.

"Luke's injury is a big blow for the team, but JJ actually is a specialist fetcher. He fulfilled this role for us in the Vodacom Cup with great results," said coach Allister Coetzee.

"It is still a very good loose trio and I'm sure that Jacques will grab the opportunity with both hands and prove that he has retained his best form.

Jacques will also bring some experience to the side because he's played in quite a few semifinals and finals for EP," Coetzee said.

Coetzee stuck with the same back line that played against the Griffons except for Chad Alcock who shook off his knee injury and will take over from Chris Jonck. Alcock will also captain the side after lock Rory Duncan took up the responsibilities in his absence.

Loosehead prop JC Roux will scrum down in Kees Lensing's place. Lensing is on international duty for Namibia and the young flanker from Park Rugby Club and EP's Merit A-side, Shaun Nel, finds himself on the bench in Greeff's place.

EP: Brett Hennessey, Paul Treu, Nardie Lombard, Clinton van Rensburg, Fabian Juries, Monwabisi Mdyesha, Chad Alcock (c); Jacques Greeff, Heinrich Stride, JJ Pienaar, Chrisjan van der Westhuysen, Rory Duncan, Tjaart Coetzee, Wayne Bennett, JC Roux.

Reserevs: Ondela Kiva, Dekado Jantjies, Willie Bouwer, Shaun Nel, Chris Jonck, Sam Gerber, William Rorich. - Sapa