Johannesburg - Demetri Catrakilis looks set to start at flyhalf for Western Province for the first time since returning to the Currie Cup champions from the Kings, reports the supersport.com website.
WP face the Golden Lions at Newlands on Saturday in a match they hope will clinch them their home semifinal spot and, if they win, also set up a log decider against the Sharks in Durban the following weekend. Province hasn’t hosted a Currie Cup final since 2001 and there is a lot of pressure on them to do so this year because of the financial windfall that it would imply.
Although WP won the Currie Cup in 2012, they had to travel to Durban for the final. The Sharks, who have hosted several finals in the past few seasons, benefited the most financially from last year’s decider even though it wasn’t them who won the trophy. Apart from the money, Province feel they owe their fans a home final.
That consideration should stand in the way of any thought that WP might stick with the up-and-coming players who have got them through the season unbeaten so far and leave their Springboks sidelined when the Growthpoint Kings Park clash arrives.
“The Boks chatted to some of our guys last week when the Boks were training here and they definitely seemed to want to be part of the Currie Cup,” said Coetzee.
“You must always pick your best players - I believe in that. I will first establish the mindset of the players when they come back though, because in 2011, after the Boks lost out at the World Cup, they had a different mindset when they came back to the players who were going into the play-offs after playing the entire Currie Cup.”
The players that WP will get back from Bok duty will be skipper Jean de Villiers, lock Eben Etzebeth, No 8 Duane Vermeulen, flank Siya Kolisi and centre Juan de Jongh, the latter being part of the Bok squad for the home leg of the Rugby Championship.
But even before the Boks come back WP are sitting pretty, with almost the entire squad outside of the national players being fit and ready to take on the Lions at the weekend if needed. In fact, the only missing player at the moment is hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, who is out for the rest of the season with a back injury.
Rynhardt Elstadt is available for the Lions game, and Schalk Burger and Frans Malherbe returned to training last week, with Burger impressing in his cameo appearance as a replacement in the last quarter of the match against the Free State Cheetahs last week. Although it would be stretching it to say Burger won the game for his team, he did have influence and his blond mop of hair was quite prominent as he helped overturn an eight point deficit and set up a win that was won with a last minute Catrakilis drop-goal.
Coetzee strongly hinted at a media conference at the WP High Performance Centre on Monday that Catrakilis would be back in the No 10 jersey this week for the first time since last year’s final. Kurt Coleman has played well for Province but Catrakilis brings something different in terms of game management. The other flyhalf, Gary van Aswegen, is also fit again and available for selection.
“You want your best players on the park. Demetri is over his injury and that was why he could come off the bench last weekend and perform like he did. He has a lot of confidence in himself and the systems. He has settled back in nicely and has really put his hand up. We will have a look at what the Lions side will look like, but I have a good idea of my selection for this weekend.”