Johannesburg - The Pumas backline will have some added firepower on attack with the inclusion of fullback Coenie van Wyk for their Currie Cup clash against Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday.Van Wyk's experience in this year's Super Rugby competition, playing for the Lions, will be of great value to the Nelspruit side.
He comes in at the expense of JW Bell, who has been solid in the final line of defence and will give cover off the bench.
The change was one of only two to the starting XV which claimed a superb 31-17 away victory over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend.
Scrumhalf Reynier van Rooyen will earn a starting berth replacing the injured Dylon Frylinck, while Sinovuyo Nyoka has been selected on the bench after returning from his loan stint at the Falcons.
The Pumas’ woes at scrumhalf were further compounded with the news that Faf de Klerk, who was a revelation for the Lions during the Super Rugby season, had been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Pumas assistant coach MJ Mentz said although injuries were part and parcel of the game, they had been hit by a slew of setbacks to their scrumhalf stocks.
"In our off-season, we had four scrum halves training with us knowing it would be a crucial position for us, and with Dylon out Reynier made a big step up in the first two games.
Unfortunately, he got injured as well," Mentz said.
"But he is back to his best now and he is putting his hand up so we are not too worried about that position - with Reynier and Snake Nyoka there."
The Pumas were sitting pretty in second place on the Currie Cup log, winning four of their first five matches since returning to the premier division provincial rugby tournament.
Coach Jimmy Stonehouse said the team's move from Witbank in the Mpumalanga Highveld to the Lowveld had a major impact on their success in recent years.
"In the last two years, we've played brilliant rugby in the First Division and now in our first year back in the Premier Division," Stonehouse said at Wednesday's team announcement.
"The squad has spent about three years together but we are not done yet. You need another two years to get settled.
"We would like to win the Currie Cup but the first goal is to avoid promotion-relegation and from there we will set new goals."
Pumas captain Corne Steenkamp said the team's good run of form had instilled the belief in the players that the team could make the semi-finals.
"The guys are really positive. The morale is good and they know we can reach the semis - it is a carrot in front of our noses," Steenkamp said.
15. Gouws Prinsloo 14. Ederies Arendse 13. Johnathan Francke 12. Doppies la Grange 11. PJ Vermeulen 10. Francois Brummer 9. Tian Meyer 8. Ruaan Lerm 7. Carel Greeff 6. Marnus Schoeman 5. Jaco Nepgen 4. Hilton Lobberts 3. Ewald van der Westhuizen 2. Martin Bezuidenhout 1. Steph Roberts
Substitutes: 16. Ryno Barnes, 17. Maks van Dyk, 18. Hugo Kloppers, 19. Burger Schoeman, 20. RJ Liebenberg, 21. Abrie Griesel, 22. Dean Grant
15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Corne Steenkamp (captain), 5 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Corne Fourie
Substitutes: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 DeJay Terblanche, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Jaco Bouwer, 20 Sinovuyo Nyoka, 21 JC Roos, 22 JW Bell