Cape Town - Western Province coach John Dobson has announced his team for Friday's Currie Cup semi-final clash against the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria (19:10 kick-off).
Fullback Cheslin Kolbe, wing Seabelo Senatla, centre Johnny Kotze, flank Rynhardt Elstadt, lock Ruan Botha and hooker Bongi Mbonambi all return to the WP starting XV this week,
The physical Elstadt’s return is the big news after missing his team’s last four encounters with a thigh problem.
Skipper Juan de Jongh will lead the defending champions into battle in Pretoria, partnering Johnny Kotze in midfield, with Senatla, Dillyn Leyds and Kolbe forming a razor-sharp back three.
Nic Groom and Robert du Preez will combine at halfback, with experienced scrumhalf Jano Vermaak back on the bench after missing WP’s last two matches with a groin strain.
Prop Oli Kebble has shaken off an ankle injury to be named on the bench, where he is joined by lock Chris van Zyl - who, like Kebble, started last Friday’s 45-14 win over the EP Kings at Newlands.
“Having players like Rynhardt and Jano back in our 22 is a big boost for us, given that they’re both experienced players who have played in games of this nature before,” Dobson told the WP Rugby website.
“Our average (match-day squad) age is just over 23; Dillyn Leyds, Johnny Kotze, Rob du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Wilco Louw, Mikey Willemse, Jurie van Vuuren and Huw Jones are all playing in their first-ever Currie Cup semi-finals - so any additional experience can only help those players and, of course, the team on the whole.
“We have had a short week, but it’s been a sharp one as we look to take on a Blue Bulls team that has been excellent at home this season and, thus, deserving of hosting a home semi-final.”
Meanwhile, the WP Under-19s will face up to the Blue Bulls’ Under-19s in the curtain-raiser to Friday’s senior semi-final at Loftus Versfeld (in their Absa Provincial U19 semi-final), with the WP Under-21s hosting the Golden Lions in their Under21 semi-final at City Park on Saturday (14:00 kick-off).
15. Cheslin Kolbe, 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. Johnny Kotze, 12. Juan de Jongh (captain), 11. Seabelo Senatla, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6. Rynhardt Elstadt, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Jean Kleyn, 3. Wilco Louw, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16. Michael Willemse, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. Chris van Zyl, 19. Jurie van Vuuren, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Huw Jones