Western Province welcomed back two Springboks in the form of Juan de Jongh and Bongi Mbonambi when they started the final build-up to Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal against the Blue Bulls, but it looks unlikely that Damian de Allende will be back in the mix.
The WP and Stormers centre stood up well by presenting some sort of physical presence in the opening part of the Springboks’ Kings Park massacre at the hands of the All Blacks before falling away later on. He’d be a pivotal player for WP in the Loftus play-off fixture were he in form and fit, but it looks like neither will apply to him.
“Bongi and Juan trained well with us (on Monday) today but it looks like Damian has a hand injury and it is quite a serious one,” said coach John Dobson.
But while it seems unlikely that the Bok midfield pairing of last week will be continued in different clothing in Pretoria, WP will be pleased to have their form player, Huw Jones, back in the selection mix after recovering from injury. Indeed, De Allende’s injury may have avoided a bit of a dilemma for Dobson, as history shows that too many changes to the team for a play-off fixture can prove a negative, as it did for both WP and the Sharks when the Boks returned home early from the 2011 World Cup and ended up playing in the play-offs that year.
Jones walked away with the individual awards at the WP prize-giving last week and deserves to start at Loftus as he has made a big contribution to the Province successes during the domestic season. There is a slight concern over De Jongh due to a slight calf contusion picked up in the Kings Park mauling, but Dobson says he expects the centre and former WP captain to play.
Dobson will have several other players back from injury for the play-off fixture, with Oli Kebble, Dewaldt Duvenage and JD Schickerling all training at the start of the build-up week, while there is also a chance that Sikhumbuzo Notshe will be available.
However, Dobson will have to think seriously about his selection before rushing them back as apart from the fact some of them haven’t played for a while, there is the potential disruption of making too many changes to consider.
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