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Rugby | Currie Cup

Augustus one of four WP changes

Western Province will have stars of the future, and arguably also the present, manning key roles at flyhalf and No 8 in Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal meeting with the Blue Bulls at Newlands.

Juarno Augustus, last year’s World Junior Player of the Year, has recovered from his latest injury problem to be declared fit to face the Bulls in what will be his first semifinal at senior level. With Springbok Sikhumbuzo Notshe struggling with a knee injury, that left coach John Dobson with an easy decision to make, though the presence of Jaco Coetzee in the selection mix might have caused just a brief hesitation before he pencilled in Augustus’ name.

Former KZN schoolboy star Coetzee played well when called upon by WP when Augustus cried off with injury and will be a useful addition off the bench later in the game against the Bulls. With Dillyn Leyds returning from a calf injury as one of four changes to the WP side that thumped the Bulls 34-7 in a match played over 40 minutes due to a Pretoria downpour last weekend, Damian Willemse, another prodigiously talented young player being groomed for big things, will man the flyhalf berth this week, with Josh Stander dropping to the bench.

Stander, recruited from the Blue Bulls in the last off-season, has excelled behind the dominant WP pack during the league stages of the Currie Cup and would not have been out of place with a starting role in the play-off phase. However, Willemse is a Springbok and the former South African Schools flyhalf will be looking forward to going into the deciding stage of the season wearing the No 10 after playing fullback in last year’s final.

Dan Kriel is back as a rotational switch with Dan du Plessis, who played well in the 40 minutes he got in his first start of the season at Loftus. Again, Du Plessis would not have let WP down if selected, and it would not have been an easy decision for Dobson to make.

“It was tough to select this team, with some quality players left out, but we are very excited to see what they are capable of in what is obviously a big game,” said the coach.

The other change to the team that started in Pretoria is the return of Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi in place of the influential and consistent Scarra Ntubeni, who hasn’t let Province down in his first full season in a while without being plagued with injury. Former Bok centre and wing JJ Engelbrecht completes a strong backline component on the reserve bench, with Paul de Wet backing up the impressive young Herschel Jantjies at scrumhalf. Jano Vermaak was one of a few WP first choice players not available for this match.

The forward back-up, such as tighthead prop Michael Kumbirai and lock Salmaan Moerat, are all players who have featured in winning WP teams in key matches this season and should have no problem dealing with the pressure of a semifinal.

Of course, after beating the Bulls so comprehensively away last week, the pressure is on WP, who will start as strong favourites, but Dobson said there was little chance of his team being complacent.

“We have worked hard this season to earn the right to play at DHL Newlands this weekend, so we intend to make the most of that opportunity,” he said.

DHL Western Province team: Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Dan Kriel, SP Marais, Damian Willemse, Herschel Jantjies, Juarno Augustus, Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (captain), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Ali Vermaak. Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Michael Kumbirai, Salmaan Moerat, Jaco Coetzee, Paul de Wet, Josh Stander, JJ Engelbrecht.


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