Cape Town - Western Province coach John Dobson has named his team for Friday's Currie Cup opener against Griquas in Kimberley (15:30 kick-off).
Outside centre Juan de Jongh will lead a starting line-up which includes two Currie Cup debutants, as well as five more on the bench. However, the playing squad includes 13 members of the WP match-day squad from last year’s Currie Cup final.
“It’s not a totally new team in terms of last season, but this team - mainly the pack - has not played together a lot since last year’s Currie Cup final,” explained Dobson.
“That’s the challenge for us, to ensure we get the pack working together as quickly as possible in order to bring our dangerous backline into play.”
Front rowers Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw are the ‘new’ faces in the WP starting XV, despite both having played at Super Rugby level for the Stormers already, with Marius Fourie (on loan from the SWD Eagles), Chris van Zyl, Chris Cloete, Jano Vermaak and Johnny Kotze the debutants on the bench.
New scrumhalf signing Vermaak boasts plenty of top-level experience - including three Springbok caps - and Kotze played nine matches for the Stormers in the 2015 Super Rugby season.
Mbonambi has been named at hooker despite being in doubt with a hamstring niggle, but Sir Lowrians hooker Charlie van Jaarsveld has been named as the 23rd member of WP’s squad should Mbonambi fail a match-day fitness test.
“Charlie featured for our Vodacom Cup team this year, so he’s not totally new to us, which is why we’d be happy to include him should Bongi fail a fitness test,” Dobson told the WP Rugby website.
“Charlie and (flank) Chris Cloete, from Hamiltons, are both in the selection mix through our club system, which is another feather in the cap of Jerome Paarwater’s Club to Vodacom Programme, which has also produced a player like Ali Vermaak.”
After five successful seasons in charge of WP’s Under-21 and Vodacom Cup teams, Dobson is relishing his first taste of Currie Cup rugby, but he is aware of the challenge facing the defending champions in Kimberley.
“This game is a banana skin of note,” admitted Dobson.
“Griquas are notorious for turning over one of the so-called ‘bigger’ teams and it’s game like these that they relish… for many reasons. We would be happy just to come away with a win - no matter what!
“They bring a big kicking game to the party, something we experienced during the Vodacom Cup, which means we will have to adapt our own kicking game to combat theirs.
“Griquas have come through a tough qualifying competition, so they will be galvanised, but, then again, we have the advantage of having watched a fair amount of their matches so far.”
15. Cheslin Kolbe, 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. Juan de Jongh (captain), 12. Jaco Taute, 11. Seabelo Senatla, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 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. Oli Kebble
Substitutes (from): 16. Marius Fourie, 17. Alistair Vermaak, 18. Chris van Zyl, 19. Chris Cloete, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Johnny Kotze, 23. Charlie van Jaarsveld