Vodacom Cup

WP pick Du Preez at fullback

2014-04-24 14:00
Robert du Preez (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Western Province have opted to pick new recruit Robert du Preez at fullback for their key Vodacom Cup game against the SWD Eagles at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday night (kick-off 19:00).

Du Preez was the star player in this year's Varsity Cup - winning the Player of the Tournament accolade playing flyhalf for Maties.

It prompted WP to buy him from the Sharks.

However, he has been played out of position by WP in the Vodacom Cup, first at inside centre and now at fullback.

Gary van Aswegen is also back at flyhalf in place of Kurt Coleman - who has moved up to the Stormers team this week - with Michael van der Spuy lining up at inside centre.

WP are chasing a victory to secure a top-two finish in the South Section of the Vodacom Cup, and with it a home quarter-final the following weekend.

Van der Spuy will partner young gun Huw Jones in an attack-minded midfield, with Chevandre van Schoor and JP Lewis teaming up with Du Preez in a new-look back three.

"We didn't have out-and-out fullback cover as Devon Williams has been our back-up No 15, so we're looking at Robert du Preez there," explained WP coach John Dobson.

"Robert is fast enough and with all his great flyhalf attributes, and the way we play in interchanging these two as we always do, it will be no problem. Rob has impressed since joining the squad and this will help develop him as he gets more time on the field."

Up front, Stephan Coetzee has returned to the Stormers set-up after getting some much-needed game time during the Super Rugby bye week two weeks ago, which means that fit-again hooker Michael Willemse will start in the No 2 jersey against the Eagles.

Willemse will have Sti Sithole on his left - in the absence of regular loosehead prop Alistair Vermaak (who is ill) - and Entienne Swanepoel on his right, with the fit-again Justin Ackerman taking his place on the bench for the first time in 2014.

Another player making his return from a long-term injury this week is hard-working flank Josh Katzen, last year's WP Under-21 captain and a Currie Cup representative. Katzen will take his place on the bench, alongside fit-again centre Kyle Lombard and debutant wing Lihleli Xoli, a member of the victorious UCT Varsity Cup outfit.

Dobson told the WP Rugby website:"It's a mixed bag in terms of our team this week. It's a pity that Tiger Bax (hamstring) and Ali Vermaak (ill) are missing out as they have been absolute stalwarts this season.

"But, then again, it's great to welcome back Mike van der Spuy, Tazz Fuzani and Sikhumbuzo Nothse - as well as Justin Ackerman and Josh Kazten (both of whom are back from long-term injuries).

"Lihleli Xoli is a player we have had our eye on for a while now. We are excited by him. I am also pleased that Chevandre van Schoor, over his ankle injury and in the absence of Devon Williams, will make his first senior start.

"Chevandre is a great story from Young Gardens in Paarl and is a kid who takes three taxis and a train just to get to (the HPC in) Bellville. The President made a commitment last year that WP would see Chevandre right and it's great that we have delivered on this."

The winner of Friday night's South Section match - between the second-placed Western Province (23 points) and third-placed SWD Eagles (21 points) - will earn hosting rights in next weekend's quarter-final encounters.

The Cell C Sharks XV (currently first on the log on 27 points) host the EP Kings in Durban on Friday afternoon. Two log points from this match will be enough for the KwaZulu-Natalians to secure first place on the South Section log, but WP will still be determined to finish their league campaign with a victory and, in the process, secure that home play-off spot.

"This is a good SWD team - their best in a while - and they are where they are just behind us on the log for good reason," said Dobson, whose team has lost just once in 2014.

"I think Outeniqua Park on a Friday night is going to be tricky for any team but I think we are well prepared and hungry. It's great that we have already secured a play-off but we must make sure it's at Newlands next week - that's our aim this week.

"We seem to be coming together as a team in terms of depth in the squad," added the WP Vodacom Cup coach.

"We have used a lot of players over the season with all the injuries and disruptions, and I hope now we can settle around what we have as we go into the play-offs. We have also enjoyed the work and the input of Tom Dawson-Squibb with his mental and performance sessions these past two weeks."

WP team:

15. Robert du Preez, 14. JP Lewis, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Michael van der Spuy, 11. Chevandre van Schoor, 10. Gary van Aswegen, 9. Jean Nel, 8. Carel du Preez, 7. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6. Rohan Kitshoff (captain), 5. Jan de Klerk, 4. Tazz Fuzani, 3. Entienne Swanepoel, 2. Michael Willemse, 1. Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16. Eital Bredenkamp, 17. Justin Ackerman, 18. Jan Uys, 19. Josh Katzen, 20. Freddie Muller, 21. Kyle Lombard, 22. Lihleli Xoli

Read more on:    wp  |  vodacom cup  |  cape town  |  rugby

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