Western Province coach John Dobson has recalled Springboks Dillyn Leyds and Wilco Louw for Saturday’s must-win Currie Cup clash against the Sharks to be played in Durban.
The Cape side need to win to ensure they make the semifinals and Dobson has turned to every available weapon to achieve the desired result.
Leyds and Louw both featured in the Springboks’ 25-24 loss to the All Blacks at Newlands on Saturday‚ with the latter making his Test debut.
The Sharks are already safely in the semifinals and will host the final if they progress that far after a season in which they have won 10 matches in a row.
Louw is at tighthead prop‚ alongside Bongi Mbonambi and JC Janse van Rensburg in the front row‚ while Leyds features on the wing‚ with Ruhan Nel moving to inside centre to partner Huw Jones in midfield. The only other change to the starting line-up puts Jaco Coetzee on the flank for the coastal derby.
"We know that we need to raise our game as a team this weekend and the players will be going flat-out to deliver the result‚" Dobson said.
"It will be a major challenge to go to Durban‚ but one that we have embraced as a team."
Sharks coach Robert du Preez resisted the urge to rest players for the play-offs, regardless of the fact that no other team can usurp their position on the log.
Lukhanyo Am returns from injury to take his place at centre‚ with Tristan Blewett shifting to the bench‚ in the only change to the team that defeated the Lions two weeks ago.
On the bench‚ Chiliboy Ralepelle and Jean-Luc du Preez return from Springbok commitments‚ while Louis Schreuder is back after missing the Lions match due to family affairs‚ and Kobus van Wyk is over the injury that has sidelined him.
"The last thing you want to do is go into a semifinal having lost the last game. But for us‚ winning isn’t all we’re focusing on‚ but rather getting better from two weeks ago, when we played the Lions‚" Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane said.
"We want to make sure we keep improving. We already have a guaranteed home semifinal‚ so there isn’t any pressure on us this weekend. But we want to go out and play well‚ to keep improving.
"It’s always a challenge coming off a bye. We had a disrupted week because of the storm on Tuesday, but I’m happy with the preparations and we’ll be ready for the game on Saturday."
Sharks coach Du Preez said: "We also owe it to our fans to put a proper show on for them.
"Home advantage is great but the team still has to go out there and perform."
The Blue Bulls and the Pumas have a virtual quarterfinal in Pretoria on Friday night‚ but both sides could find themselves out of the running because of events elsewhere.
The Bulls are fifth with 27 points and the Pumas sixth with 26. The most those teams can finish with is 32 and 31, respectively‚ the points Western Province (second) and the Cheetahs (third) have.
Blue Bulls head coach John Mitchell has confidence in his charges after their big 64-36 win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.
The Cheetahs and Golden Lions‚ who meet at Ellis Park on Saturday‚ have been on different trajectories this season. The former got off to a fast start that has tailed off badly‚ with the past two matches having Daan Human’s side on the receiving end of 59-24 and 64-36 hammerings against the Griquas and the Blue Bulls.