Western Province get relief in Currie Cup

There should be relief for Western Province over the next fortnight as they struggle to get their Currie Cup campaign on track again, having racked up a hat-trick of defeats.

Province play the winless (after nine matches) Leopards at Newlands on Saturday, and travel to Witbank next week for a clash against the Pumas.

The one lesson Province will have learnt from their successive defeats is that the team minus their Springbok backline players cannot be considered serious challengers for the championship.

The likes of Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie, Schalk Burger and Ricky Januarie are not available for Currie Cup selection and Province have roped in Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers for the Leopards clash.

This injection of Bok talent in the backline should ensure a comfortable victory against the Leopards, who on average have conceded more than six tries a match.

The presence of the returning Boks has afforded Allister Coetzee, the Province coach, the luxury of fielding rookie flyhalf Lionel Cronje ahead of Willem de Waal in the all-important No 10 berth.

Province have selected reserve scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann at fullback in a move that should further bolster the thrust along the backline.

The Sharks-bound Hoffmann is a wonderfully gifted player and should enjoy his outing alongside the star-studded Bok three-quarters. Coetzee said he had wanted to field Cronje in a run-on XV for some time.

“It was always my intention to play Lionel round about this stage of the competition,” said Coetzee.

“He played fullback for the Province Under-21 team last week which gave him a chance to get up to speed with his decision-making.

“The good thing for Lionel is that on Saturday he has someone like Jean de Villiers alongside him, along with more great backs such as Gio (Aplon) and Juan (De Jongh).

“These are three highly talented players who are returning and they have already made considerable input this week (at training).”

Province will enjoy further reinforcements in the pack where flankers Pieter Louw and Nick Koster have shaken off their injuries which caused them to be sidelined last week for the Lions clash.

Coetzee has again opted for five forwards instead of the usual four on the substitutes’ bench which boasts two props in Wicus Blaauw and Brok Harris.

Western Province team:

15 Conrad Hoffmann, 14 Conrad Jantjes, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Nick Koster, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Anton van Zyl (capt), 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 JC Kritzinger, 2 Deon Fourie and 1 JD Moller.

Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Brok Harris, 19 De Kock Steenkamp, 20 Yaya Hartzenburg, 21 Willem de Waal and 22 Paul Bosch.

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