Western Province coach John Dobson’s decision to give 20-year-old centre Rikus Pretorius his debut in what is effectively a Currie Cup knockout game against Free State on Saturday was driven by indecision above him.
The experienced Dan Kriel should be playing‚ a minor ankle injury notwithstanding‚ but there is no clarity on the midfielder’s future at the union. As a result Dobson’s selection was about looking to the future.
Dobson‚ who is to be Stormers coach in 2020‚ is trying to ascertain which players are staying and which are leaving at the end of the current campaign and Kriel appears to be moving on.
The WP coach chose his words carefully when quizzed about Kriel’s future in Cape Town‚ as well as the situation about other leading players.
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Asked if Kriel would be back in 2020‚ Dobson said: “That’s a good question. It’s an unfolding story.
“There is a possibility he’s leaving. It’s tricky because we want to play the guys who are going to be here next year but we also have to try to qualify for the Currie Cup semis.”
What Dobson did not say was how poorly contract negotiations by the cash-strapped union’s top brass have been handled‚ which is why so many players are leaving.
Contract offers were sent out just before the June 30 deadline‚ but two months on several players have not signed because of uncertainty about cash flow at the union.
Several players might go on short-term loan deals during the World Cup period to ease financial pressure on WP Rugby and at least half a dozen top players are moving on.
Eben Etzebeth has signed for Toulon, while the Kings have made Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi a huge offer.
Dan Kriel is likely to join the Lions, while the Johannesburg union is also pursuing former junior world player of the year Juarno Augustus.
Bok centre Damian de Allende will continue his career in Japan in 2020‚ as will utility back SP Marais. Flyhalf Josh Stander‚ and looseforwards Kobus van Dyk and Sikhumbuzo Notshe are also leaving.
Dobson though‚ indicated that Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and star flank Pieter-Steph du Toit were set to stay on.
“Carlu Sadie [prop] is going to Stade Francais on loan during the World Cup‚” Dobson said. “Whether he stays on next year is still a developing situation.
“There is the possibility Damian [Willemse] might go on loan to Saracens during the World Cup‚ which I think is a brilliant opportunity‚ given the kicking game in Europe and he will have the opportunity to work with [kicking coach] Dan Vickers and [director of rugby] Mark McCall.
“I’m hoping that we will be able to announce our contracted 2020 playing group before the World Cup starts next month. There is about good news coming out and it would be good for the Boks too if the announcement was made before RWC 2019.
“If we announce that the Bok captain and the 2018 SA player of the year are staying at WP it would be a massive sign of faith in this union. The sooner that happens the better.”