Injuries have 'helped' WP
Cape Town - Western Province forward coach Matt Proudfoot believes their injury woes this season might actually have enhanced their fortunes.
Seventeen players have missed some or all of WP's Currie Cup games this season.
Despite all the injuries, Province are second on the log with four round-robin games remaining, and Proudfoot believes the young guys who have stepped up into the injured players' shoes have played a big part in their success.
"Our season has been characterised by players getting chances and taking them," Proudfoot told Die Burger newspaper.
"Even though it is big setbacks for the (injured) individuals, it's good for the team, because it makes the players hungry and creates healthy internal contests.
"Despite all the injuries, the morale of the team is brilliant."
Proudfoot believes this was the reason why flyhalf Lionel Cronjé decided to leave the union and sign with the Bulls Bulls. "As a coach I have only the highest of regard for players who make sound decisions about their future. Lionel saw how well Gary van Aswegen, Kurt Coleman and Demetri Catrakilis used their chances."
With Peter Grant also returning for Super Rugby duty next season, Cronjé probably realised he would struggle for game time.
"He took a responsible decision about his future and deserves credit for that. But because of Isma-eel Dollie's injury, Lionel will now get his chance in the WP team over the next few weeks and perhaps be part of something special at the end," said Proudfoot.
Province take on the Free State Cheetahs in a crucial Currie Cup clash at Newlands on Saturday.
The following players have missed Currie Cup games due to injury this season:
Duane Vermeulen (captain), Gary van Aswegen, Lionel Cronjé, Kurt Coleman, Wicus Blaauw, Steven Kitshoff, Isma-eel Dollie, Pieter Louw, Adriaan Fondse, Nic Groom, Tim Whitehead, Demetri Catrakilis, Siya Kolisi, Steven Hunt, JC Kritzinger, De Kock Steenkamp and Deon Fourie.