A new-look DHL Western Province team will head to Port Elizabeth to open their 2014 Absa Currie Cup campaign against the Eastern Province Kings on Friday night (kick-off 19h10).
Centre Juan de Jongh, in his first senior match as captain of DHL WP, will skipper a squad with eight Absa Currie Cup debutants, but the 22-man group includes Springbok squad members Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth.
Prop Malherbe has not played since May 3, whilst lock Etzebeth will feature in his first game of the season – both star forwards getting valuable game time ahead of the Springboks’ 2014 Castle Rugby Championships campaign.
Malherbe will start from the bench as he makes his way back into action from a concussion-related lay-off, whilst Etzebeth will start in the No.4 jersey after being sidelined since November 2013 with a long-term foot injury and then, recently, with a minor toe injury.
The starting Absa Currie Cup debutants for DHL WP are wings Kobus van Wyk and Seabelo Senatla, lock Manuel Carizza and loosehead prop Ali Vermaak – despite all four having featured in Vodacom Super Rugby earlier this year for the DHL Stormers.
On the bench, meanwhile, hooker Stephan Coetzee, lock Jean Kleyn, flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe and flyhalf Robert du Preez will be eagerly anticipating their first taste of Currie Cup action, Coetzee, Kleyn and Notshe having played Super Rugby in 2014 and WP U21 ace Du Preez playing for DHL WP in the Vodacom Cup earlier this year.
“It’s a new-look team, but an exciting unit,” DHL Western Province coach Allister Coetzee told www.wprugby.com.
“Opening matches are always tough affairs and there’s no doubt that the EP Kings will be well up for this match.
“I’ve watched a few of the EP games of late and you know that a team under Carlos Spencer will play an exciting brand of rugby, so we’re bracing ourselves for a big onslaught come Friday night.”
Speaking about the availability of Malherbe and Etzebeth, Coetzee added: “Being able to call upon players of the calibre of Frans and Eben is a boost for us. It’s a good situation for DHL Western Province, the Springboks, but, most importantly, for the players themselves.
“Both players have been training with us of late, up until the end of last week in fact; they were part of our pre-season build-up and our camp in Langebaan recently, so we have no qualms with picking them in the 22 this week.”
Whilst the likes of Vermaak, Argentina international Carizza, Van Wyk and Senatla all boast Vodacom Super Rugby experience, coach Coetzee had a special word for all the starting Absa Currie Cup debutants.
“The Absa Currie Cup remains a special tournament for all South Africans,” he said.
“We’ve had some good results in the Currie Cup in recent years, most notably with our win in 2012 and going through unbeaten to a home final last year.
“Past records, however, count for nothing and the new players are all aware of that – no matter what they might have achieved up until now.”
The DHL WP team for Friday (v the EP Kings) is as follows:
15. Cheslin Kolbe 14. Kobus van Wyk (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province) 13. Juan de Jongh (captain) 12. Michael van der Spuy 11. Seabelo Senatla (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province) 10. Demetri Catrakilis 9. Nic Groom 8. Nizaam Carr 7. Michael Rhodes 6. Siya Kolisi 5. Manuel Carizza (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province) 4. Eben Etzebeth 3. Pat Cilliers (vice-captain) 2. Tiaan Liebenberg 1. Alistair Vermaak (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province)
Replacements: 16. Stephan Coetzee (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province) 17. Frans Malherbe 18. Jean Kleyn (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province) 19. Sikhumbuzo Notshe (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province) 20. Louis Schreuder 21. Robert du Preez (On Absa Currie Cup debut for DHL Western Province 22. Pat Howard
Referee: Jaco Peyper Assistant referees: Christie du Preez, Jaco Pretorius Television match official: Deon van Blommestein