DHL Western Province Under-21 coach John Dobson is confident that his players will step up when they take on the Sharks in Absa Provincial Under-21 action in Durban on Saturday (kick-off 13h00).
The DHL WP Under-21s are two from two in Provincial Under-21 action thus far in 2014, but they missed out on a bonus point win over the Leopards last weekend and are currently in second position on the national standings after two weeks.
“We know what we did poorly last week and have worked hard on the areas that concerned us,” Dobson told www.wprugby.com.
“The Sharks away is as tough a test as you get at this level especially with the likely inclusion of three or four of their players who have played Super Rugby this season.
“But we have made some plans for this and our players are now ready to step up a a level from where we operated in the last two games. We know we are going to have to play better (and step up) this week.”
Dobson has made three changes to the starting line-up that overcame the hard-nosed Leopards 27-20 at City Park last week, with Dalen Goliath starting at No.14 as a replacement for the injured Lihleli Xoli (JP Lewis, in turn, moves from the right-wing to the left) and Michael Kennedy coming in for Chad Solomon at hooker.
Solomon has a slight shoulder niggle and will warm the bench against the Sharks, but squad vice-captain Freddie Kirsten drops out of the matchday 22 altogether with a potentially season-ending finger injury.
“I suppose in modern rugby two injuries is an acceptable return from a game, but to lose Freddie Kirsten with his finger injury and Lihleli Xoli with a hamstring injury is big for us,” lamented Dobson.
“Losing Freddie is a major blow because it looks like it will be for the remainder of the season. He is one of our leaders and was playing so well… it’s a real pity.
“Chad Solomon (still in his first year of Under-21 rugby) is carrying a slight shoulder injury and unable to start the game and Mike Willemse is still unavailable to us, but Michael Kennedy, who boasts Vodacom Cup experience, is a useful replacement.”
The WP Under-21s have a bye next weekend and will resume their campaign against Border in East London the following weekend (August 8-10).
The DHL WP Under-21 team for Saturday (v Sharks) is as follows:
15. Huw Jones
14. Dalen Goliath
13. Johnny Kotze
12. Kyle Lombard
11. JP Lewis
10. Robert du Preez
9. Jean Nel
8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
7. Jacques Vermeulen
6. Eital Bredenkamp (captain)
5. Jean Kleyn
4. JD Schickerling
3. John Meyer
2. Michael Kennedy
1. Sti Sithole
16. Chad Solomon
17. Deacon Chowles
18. Wesley Adonis
19. Carel du Preez
20. Tapiwa Tsomondo
21. Jason Marcus
22. Janco Gunter