Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Last big push by banker Brok
Cape Town - Some things change. But others simply stay the same ... like the near-perpetual presence of Brok Harris in the No 3 jersey for Western Province and earlier the Stormers in 2011.
Harris has always been a bit of an unsung hero on the South African domestic rugby scene, with his uncomplaining devotion to hard graft even if he is arguably never going to be a scrummager of immensely destructive repute.
At 26, still relatively youthful for a tighthead, even that allegation could yet be proved unwarranted, of course.
Beyond dispute, you would think, is that the Roodepoort-born, notably injury-resistant Harris goes about his business without grumbling, ever willing to raise his personal levels of responsibility even as others around him succumb to ill-fortune and disappear from the scene for a while.
Although you may find that the Province coaching staff stop short of directly saying so, Harris is a tired soldier at this mid-October juncture. He simply must be ... it is hard to imagine any tight forward in the rest of the country has had as much game-time as he has this season.
There has been no deliberate plan to effectively flog the prop to death: circumstance has largely forced his over-use, as coach Allister Coetzee explained to Sport24 at Wednesday’s media briefing ahead of the Absa Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Needless to say, Harris has been chosen at tighthead, and may have to operate on the “wrong” side in late-match once more if loosehead JC Kritzinger - still a bit short of a good gallop after various injury setbacks - needs to be pulled off in the final quarter on the Highveld.
“Absolutely,” conceded Coetzee, when asked whether Harris’s high level of deployment had been less than ideal.
“Look, we had an opportunity (in mid-season) to give Wicus Blaauw a break of four weeks to do a bit of conditioning, and we would have loved to do the same with Brokkie.
“But then Steven Kitshoff got injured and Wicus promptly did likewise after his spell out (of competition) ... so it’s been tough on poor Brok.
“But he’s continuing to do well for us. There’s been a fresh focus on set-piece this week (after some difficulties against the Pumas last Saturday) and hopefully he and the other guys can pull it together and come up with a big game this weekend.
“JC also took a long time to recover (from a knee ligament injury) so that also affected our plans for Brok’s break, and he had to slog on.”
In the earlier Super Rugby season, when the Stormers went as far as the semi-finals in the first year of expanded activity in the competition, CJ van der Linde did have a few outings at both No 3 and No 1, but the Springbok was mostly lethargic for the franchise before his off-load - ironically, to Saturday’s opponents.
Expect Harris to do everything he can to provide a right shoulder and make some ever-useful tackles and carries at Coca-Cola Park, even if he does so well nigh in his sleep.
He is that kind of player. With apologies to the slogan of a car-hire company: no fuss, no frills, just good value ...
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ Van der Linde
Substitutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar/Jaco Kriel, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan Des Fountain, 22 James KamanaWestern Province:
15 Gio Aplon, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean De Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JC Kritzinger
Substitutes: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Tertius Daniller, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Conrad Jantjes