Province opt for experience

Western Province have chosen experience as the most essential criteria for the team to the play the Sharks in their 2009 Currie Cup  opener at Newlands on Saturday afternoon.

This was clearly reflected by the choice of their off-season recruits lock Chris Jack and three-quarter Frikkie Welsh both of whom have hardly had time to settle down in Cape Town.

But Province coach Allister Coetzee (pictured) said on Wednesday that the players’ experience was a telling factor in their selection.

“Chris has played in New Zealand, he’s played many games for the All Blacks, he’s played in Europe for a couple of years, he’s played for the Crusaders, a very successful (Super Rugby ) franchise, so his experience counts a lot,” said Coetzee.

“In the past we’ve had players like AJ Venter, Monty (Percy Montgomery) and we see Chris in that mentoring role here as well because there are many young players coming through.

“Chris has settled in nicely and he’s done well in the few days he’s been with us.”

Jack started playing provincial rugby in New Zealand for Tasman Makos and Canterbury as a 21-year-old in 1999. The same year he made his debut in Super Rugby for the Crusaders and went on to chalk up 85 caps.

In 2001, he was selected for the All Blacks and right until 2007 he was a regular choice for the national team but on Wednesday he said he regretted that, during that passage of time, New Zealand failed to win the World Cup.

As a result, Jack, 30, said he still harboured thoughts of making the All Blacks team because it was a matter of “unfinished business” for him. Over the last two years, Jack has been playing for Saracens in the English Premiership.

Welsh, also 30, has never made it through to the ranks of the Springboks but he has been capped for the SA under-21s and 23s, as well as the Springbok A side.


He made his Currie Cup debut for the Blue Bulls in 1998 and in 2004 he moved abroad to play for English outfit Bath.

One of his team mates at Bath then was former Springbok centre Robbie Fleck who nowadays is the Province backline coach. In the past two seasons Welsh has been playing for Montpellier in France.

Coetzee said that in view of Tonderai Chavhanga’s lack of recent playing time (as a result of injury) and the expected weather conditions, the selection of Welsh made good sense.

“When we lost ‘Bobes’ (Gcobani Bobo) we needed to look for a similar player who can cover at (jersey numbers) 13 and 14,” said Coetzee.

“Frikkie (Welsh) has that kind of experience and has recently played outstanding rugby for the (Southern) Kings against the British Lions and against the Boks in Namibia.

“Tondie has not had much playing time of late. For this tough encounter, Frikkie is the right guy.

“Also looking at what the conditions may be like on Saturday – there could be unexpected rain or showers. Frikkie is the right option.

“Tondie off the bench will be a great way of using him on Saturday.”

Coetzee said the Sharks was the first of three matches in consecutive weeks when his side will be looking to settle down as a consistent combination, after an encouraging finish to the Super 14 season.

“The Sharks are coming with a formidable side, with a good pack of forwards,” said Coetzee.


“There is no doubt that we stood up physically to all the sides in the Super Rugby season.

“In our last four Super Rugby matches, we played well and we also did well against the British Lions.

“It looks like

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