Western Province are sweating over the fitness of emerging openside flank Jaco Coetzee for Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks in Durban.
Coetzee has been one of the finds of the season with his strong defence and his ability to compete for the ball on the ground. He left the field after only 21 minutes of their semifinal against the Golden Lions due to a head knock and failed his sideline head injury assessment. Protocol now dictates he has to go through a series of escalating cognitive tests to ascertain whether he is fit to play again this weekend.
"We will give Jaco until later in the week because the protocols escalate day by day as to the amount of contact he can take and he’s not there yet‚" coach John Dobson said.
"It would be a big loss if he didn’t play because he has serious stopping power.
"That’s why we will give him until as late as we can‚ but I hope he is going to make it."
If Coetzee fails to show enough improvement, then Sikhumbuzo Notshe should come in to the starting line-up.
Notshe enjoyed a superb outing when he came on for Coetzee last weekend and was a key figure in Province’s 19-5 win over the Lions.
"Notch [Notshe] is a bit like Nemo [Nizaam Carr] in that he is a No8‚" Dobson said.
"But he did a great job when he came on and if he has to start at No6 in the final, he will have to alter his game slightly, like he did last weekend."
Lock JD Schickerling has been cleared to play after limping off last weekend with an ankle injury. He did not train on Monday but will take part in training sessions on Tuesday.
But as initially suspected‚ centre EW Viljoen will not recover in time from a hamstring injury‚ also picked up against the Lions.
Blitzbok Ruhan Nel or former Junior Springbok Dan du Plessis will start alongside Huw Jones in the midfield.
Turning his attention to the Sharks‚ Dobson does not believe that they play a vastly different game to the Golden Lions.
"The Sharks are quite direct‚ like the Lions‚ but they perhaps play a more territorially based game‚" Dobson said.
"There are a lot of similarities though‚ in the way they carry strongly with big ball carriers and how good they are at the breakdown‚" Dobson said.
"They have Keegan Daniel‚ Franco Marais and the Du Preez twins [Jean-Luc and Daniel]‚ who are all very good over the ball.
"But they will look for field position more frequently than the Lions‚ which I suppose is a bigger threat in a play-off game.
"We have improved our ugly stuff — defence and cleaning rucks — but lost a little rhythm on attack in the past few weeks‚ so that is something we will focus on this weekend.
"Even though it’s a final, we want to be more positive with ball in hand."