Currie Cup

Familiar face at WP training

2014-10-08 12:00
Anton van Zyl (File)
Cape Town - Former Western Province captain Anton van Zyl is set for a shock return to the team after an absence of four years as the Currie Cup log leaders seek a way to protect their stocks ahead of the play-off phase of the competition, the website reports.

Van Zyl, known as Worms by his friends, finished off a stint with Stade Francais a few months ago and is back living in Cape Town. He last played for WP in the 2010 Currie Cup final, and last played for the Stormers in the 2011 season.

The 34-year-old attended a Province training session on Tuesday as the Cape side prepares for the clash with the Sharks this weekend, and according to WP sources, is in the reckoning to play in the game.

It may sound like a bizarre move by WP to bring back a player from the distant past for what will be a one-off appearance. Van Zyl, who also played for the Lions during his South African career, cannot play in the semi-finals as the cut-off date for players to sign up with a union and be eligible for the playoffs has already been passed.

However, it could well be a stroke of genius, as WP have massive injury problems at lock at present, and playing Van Zyl could enable Rynhardt Elstadt to move to blindside flank for Michael Rhodes. Rhodes would surely be one of the players Province would want to be resting in a game where the hosts have nothing to gain as they have already clinched top place on the final log.

WP coach Allister Coetzee has expressed an intention to rotate selections this week. He refuses to use the word rest, but in a sense that is effectively what he will be looking to do, although there is a more pressing need to “protect” key players ahead of the playoffs.

With Jean Kleyn doubtful for the semi-final and Ruan Botha already ruled out for the rest of the season, it would not help WP for one of the remaining locks to be injured in this weekend’s game, as it would leave them short of experience.

Under-21 player Jurie van Vuuren was on the bench last week and might well play this week, but regardless of whether he starts or plays off the bench, WP can do with some experience in a side that looks likely to be very young, with several of the fringe players who either still qualify for age-group rugby or have just graduated from age-group rugby getting a turn to start.

Tiaan Liebenberg, the veteran hooker who is over his injury problems, is likely to return to the starting team even though he has had no recent game time. The introduction of an experience quotient to the WP pack will limit the likelihood of the "Streeptruie" being outplayed, which would be a bad result for confidence ahead of the playoffs even if it wouldn’t have any impact on them.

With a few hardened veterans in among the youngsters, WP can ensure that even if they lose the match, they will put up some kind of competitive showing to satisfy the paying patrons at Newlands.

Van Zyl, now heading into the middle part of his fourth decade, captained WP to a second placed log finish in 2010, with Schalk Burger assuming the captaincy when the Springboks returned for the playoffs. WP lost the final that year to the Sharks in Durban. Van Zyl later that year played for Nick Mallett’s Barbarians team in their marquee match against the Springboks at Twickenham and turned in a man-of-the-match performance.

Read more on:    wp  |  currie cup  |  cape town  |  rugby

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