Rookie Huw ‘will make a difference’ to WP attack
CHESLIN KOLBE and Joe Pietersen would have started the week with a pretty clear idea of what to expect from the Currie Cup clash between Western Province and the Sharks at Kings Park tomorrow (5.05pm). That all changed yesterday.
Kolbe discovered flyhalf Lionel Cronjé, who he has had to plan around this week, has been dropped from the Sharks matchday squad.
Pietersen discovered his reactive role in the kicking game has changed to a proactive one as he moves from fullback to No 10 in place of Cronje.
Much of the talk from the Province camp earlier this week revolved around the tactical implications of having to cover the Sharks dink-and-dunk kicking game.
Cronjé has put boot to ball far more than anyone else in the first half of the season. More than just the volume, it is the placement of his kicks that presents defensive coaches with an added layer to consider in their containment plans.
He is a bit of a maverick, and perhaps this explains his sudden absence, but he does utilise a wide repertoire of kicks to isolate the defence. The challenge of roaming deep without voiding the short and intermediate spaces would’ve required an adjustment in thinking from fullback Kolbe, but all of that went out of the window when Pietersen was named at No 10.
A former WP and Stormers utility back, Pietersen moved to Durban from Bloemfontein after Super Rugby and has since started five consecutive games in the Sharks No 15 jersey.
The 31-year-old has had to scrap all the analysis he’s done on the WP kickand-chase tandem of Kolbe and Seabelo Senatla. Instead, Pietersen will be wrapping his mind around the need to launch accurate kicks into Kolbe’s vicinity, and the physical test of stopping rookie centre Huw Jones.
“Huw reminds me of a young Damian de Allende,” said WP coach John Dobson yesterday. “He doesn’t have the same sidestep, but he does have a very big pass and he can beat people quite easily.
“He’s an attacking, not a distributing, No 12. He’s got the feet, strength and passing game like Damian, so I think he will make a difference.”
Jones replaces Jaco Taute (groin) to make his starting Currie Cup debut in one of three changes to the side that ran on for a 33-15 win against Griquas at Newlands last week.
“Huw may lack some of the defensive and combative skills that Jaco has got, but he’s got a lot of X-factor on attack,” Dobson said.
The two other changes also add attacking firepower, with Sikhumbuzo Notshe taking over from Nizaam Carr (hamstring) at No 8, while Dillyn Leyds bumps No 14 Kobus van Wyk to the bench. Scrumhalf Nic Groom will lead the side until Carr is fit to return.
For the Sharks, Odwa Ndungane lines up in Pietersen’s regular spot, Jean-Luc du Preez packs down in the back row and loosehead prop Dale Chadwick drops to the bench for Thomas du Toit.
At the halfway mark of the competition, WP are just two points clear of the fourth-placed Sharks. “Because of the draw, we only play the Sharks and Lions away,” said Dobson. “So we’ve only got one shot at the Lions and Sharks, we can’t count on getting them back at Newlands. We have to go win this game because we’re competing with them for semi-final places.” Teams Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom (captain), 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff. 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Chris van Zyl, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Kobus van Wyk Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Marco Wentzel (captain), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Thomas du Toit. 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Dave McDuling, 19 Christiaan de Bruin, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Garth April Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge