Injury-ravaged WP wary of Lood de Jager and Blue Bulls
De Jager will give Bulls an advantage in the lineouts
Cape Town — Western Province might be going into the Currie Cup as pretournament favourite after making the last two finals‚ but they have a threadbare squad due to injuries and Springbok call-ups.
Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Eben Etzebeth‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Siya Kolisi‚ Frans Malherbe‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Damian de Allende‚ Herschel Jantjies and Dillyn Leyds are with the Boks in Pretoria.
Loose forwards Cobus Wiese‚ Johan du Toit and Kobus van Dyk are all out for the rest of the season‚ as are centre Daniel du Plessis and fullback Damian Willemse (although he could be fit for the Rugby World Cup) while several more players are on the short-term injury roster.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ Ali Vermaak‚ Sergeal Petersen and Jano Vermaak are definitely set to miss this weekend’s opener against the Blue Bulls at Newlands.
Coach John Dobson admitted his options at loose forward were severely limited due to the casualty list while centre is also causing some headaches after EW Viljoen opted to leave the union.
Centre Ruhan Nel‚ who is back to full fitness after injury problems during Super Rugby‚ believes this weekend’s clash with the Bulls will be a tough test.
Their pool phase fixture in 2018 was abandoned because of lightning after WP had run in four tries and were well on their way to a big win. They clashed against in the semifinals and on that occasion it required extra time for WP to edge their old rivals.
“Last year we went to Loftus and played in storm conditions and easily scored four tries and ran up a big score in a game that didn’t even reach the second half before it was abandoned‚” said Nel.
“But then a few weeks later they came to Cape Town for the semifinal as rank underdogs and they took us to the 100th minute before we could break them.
“That shows what kind of team they are and what they are capable of and we are expecting a really tough opening game.”
Bok lock Lood de Jager will take time off the national camp to play for the Bulls after a lengthy shoulder injury layoff. His presence is another worry for WP and especially hooker Scarra Ntubeni. De Jager will pose a real threat to the WP set piece.
“It’s going to be much tougher for us with Lood there‚” Ntubeni said. “Lood is the type of guy who will sit for three or four hours working out our lineout and then he will present it to the team on a Monday.
“He enjoys that sort of thing‚ he is a clever player and he puts in a lot of effort. Since the days of Victor Matfield the Bulls have always had a strong focus on their lineouts. So we will be very aware of his presence and it will make it more challenging.
“The Bulls have a good backline and we are aware of that but when you play them there are always a lot of set pieces and they put a lot of emphasis on that. Lood will be playing a controlling role and leading from the front.”
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