New DHL Western Province Under-21 head coach Robbie Fleck has cast his selection net wide ahead of the start of his team’s 2015 Absa Provincial Under-21 campaign this Saturday (July 11 – kick-off 14h00).
DHL WP went down narrowly to the Blue Bulls in last year’s National U21 Final and new coach Fleck has begun his 2015 preparations with one thing on his mind – increasing the depth, or capacity, within his playing group.
The team will be heading into their season-opener against the Sharks Under-21s without key men like Wilco Louw, Jacques Vermeulen, Luke Stringer, Justin Phillips, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Daniel du Plessis and Grant Hermanus (all but Louw are currently injured), but Fleck is happy with the depth he has at his disposal.
“We’ve cast the net wide this year, looking into our club sides and playing some trials ahead of the season,” explained Fleck, ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Sharks’ Under-21s at City Park.
“I would say we have an enlarged group of about 52 players who have been part of our planning up until now, with the hope that any one of these players could step up into the team when or if needed.
“The squad started training before the end of the Super Rugby season already and I have been pretty hands-on these past three weeks (since the DHL Stormers’ campaign ended). We’ve been working hard to increase our squad capacity – something which could come in handy as the season progresses.”
SA Under-20 stars Khanyo Ngcukana, EW Viljoen, Brandon Thomson, Ernst Stapelberg, Rikus Bothma and Frans van Wyk are expected to form the core of this team, but Fleck has praised those players that have emerged via the club and subsequent trials system employed.
He told the www.wprugby.com website: “Sibahle Maxwane, Kobus van Dyk, Liam Hendricks, Christo van der Merwe, Jason Marcus and James Verity-Amm all put in strong performances in the WP U21 trials and forced their way into the mix.
“It’s a good opportunity for them and they will gel nicely with a core of players who have moved up from last year’s Under-19 team and WP Rugby Institute programme.
“We have a very young team this year, with about 90% of the core group still being Under-20. But this is a tight bunch of players and they’re all excited about getting their 2015 campaign underway.”
Fleck has appointed inspirational No.8 Rikus Bothma as his captain for this season, the former Paarl Gym scholar having led the DHL WP Under-19 side to glory last year.
“Rikus is a warrior and the kind of leader you want to play for,” enthused Fleck. “He is not the biggest talker, but the players will follow his lead.”
The DHL WP Under-21 team for Saturday (v Sharks, home) is as follows:
15. Khanyo Ngcukana
14. Sibahle Maxwane
13. EW Viljoen
12. Brandon Thomson
11. Leolin Zas
10. Ernst Stapelberg
9. SP Ferreira
8. Rikus Bothma (captain)
7. Kobus van Dyk
6. Luke van der Smit
5. David Ribbans
4. Cornelius van Niekerk
3. Frans van Wyk
2. Chad Solomon
1. Wesley Adonis
16. Martin Wipplinger
17. Liam Hendricks
18. Kyle Whyte
19. Johannes Momsen
20. Christo van der Merwe
21. Jason Marcus
22. James Verity-Amm
Referee: Jaco Pretorius