Province to test their credentials
August 3, 2010
Francois Louw will be back in action for Western Province © Getty Images
Western Province are leading the way in this season's Currie Cup and have a big opportunity to dent the hopes of one of their rivals this weekend, taking on Griquas on their home patch in Kimberley on Saturday.
Province are currently three points clear of Griquas and the Natal Sharks and welcome back another Springbok in the form of flanker Francois Louw for the game. Louw starts alongside his namesake, Pieter, and No.8 Duane Vermeulen in the back-row. Jean Botha and Albertus Buckle return to the Griquas front-row while new signing Johan van Deventer gets an immediate start in the back-row.
"They [Griquas] should really be respected as one of the top five provinces," head coach Allister Coetzee said. "They're a good team, a well coached side and they've made it known that for them it's all about winning their home games.
"We came unstuck there in 2008 and 2009. It's going to be a tough match for us but we've got a plan and it's about focus and executing our plan. You've got to play for 80 minutes and this Griquas side up their intensity in the last 20 minutes so you have to make sure you give them nothing."
The Sharks will be out to capitalise on any slip ups at the summit when they take on the injury-ravaged Golden Lions at Kings Park on Saturday. The home side are struggling with a number of injury problems themselves however, losing fly-half options Ruan Pienaar and Steve Meyer after last weekend's win over the Cheetahs. Impressive youngster Patrick Lambie switches from the centre to the No.10 jersey while Springboks Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis are the starting props. Bismarck du Plessis makes his long-awaited return from injury on the bench.
Lions boss John Mitchell has named an unchanged 22 for the game, with the only possible change coming on the bench. Loose forward Jaco Kriel is bracketed with Renaldo Bothma.
The reigning champions, Blue Bulls, will want to slingshot themselves into contention at the top with five points against the bottom-placed Leopards at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle returns to their starting line-up in place of skipper Gary Botha this week, and he is joined there by veteran midfielder Jaco Pretorius. The former Springbok has recovered from injury and will play his first game since May's Super 14 final.
"This was a good time for us to use our squad system and to give some of the regulars a rest," coach Frans Ludeke said. "But for those one or two rested, this is the strongest squad I could pick. We are expecting a huge, physical battle from the Leopards and will have to be up for this game. The new guys in the team will make sure we front up as they can't wait to have a run."
Free State Cheetahs have endured a mixed season so far after making the final in 2009 but they can generate some momentum with an away win against the Pumas in Witbank on Friday. The visitors will be without their talismanic skipper, Juan Smith, however, after he was ruled out with concussion.
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