Preview: Western Province v Pumas

Date published: September 16 2016

Western Province have a great chance of closing the gap between them and the teams in the top four when they face the Pumas at Newlands on Saturday.

The Cheetahs did Province a favour by beating the Golden Lions on Thursaday night which means a bonus-point win over the Pumas will see the Cape Town side move up to fifth on the Currie Cup standings.

The Pumas are still looking for their first victory of the competition but they are unlikely to change that this weekend. 

Nizaam Carr will make his first appearance for Western Province this season. The experienced loose forward has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, but has recovered and will start at openside flank, in one of five changes for Western Province, this week.

Carr is joined in the loose trio by Stefan Willemse and number eight Kobus van Dyk, with Jurie van Vuuren set to provide an impact off the replacements bench. In the front-row Alistair Vermaak starts at loosehead prop, with Sti Sithole providing cover on the replacements bench.

There are two changes to the backline with centre Huw Jones returning from injury to replace Johnny Kotze, whilst at scrum-half Godlen Masimla comes in for Jano Vermaak, who has a hip-pointer injury.

Western Province coach John Dobson said that he expects a major reaction from his team after a disappointing performance in Johannesburg last week.

"We know that we were not up to standard defensively last week, and there is a strong desire to put things right this weekend," he said.

The Pumas have made most of their changes in the backline as they search for an elusive first victory in the competition.

Centre Hoffman Maritz, who was the Pumas Currie Cup Player of the Year in 2015, makes his first appearance of this year’s campaign after recovering from surgery on a hamstring tear. Maritz will slot in at outside centre, with Hennie Skorbinski moving to number 12 and Marlou van Niekerk dropping out of the squad with an ankle injury. Having served a one match suspension, Tyler Fisher is on the bench as backline cover.

“Hoffman is one guy we’ve really missed this season and it’s exciting to have him back. We’ll look to him to really shore up the midfield and provide some impact with ball in hand,” said Pumas coach MJ Mentz.

Ruwellyn Isbell, who injected spark into the backline as a substitute against the Blue Bulls, has earned a starting spot at right wing ahead of Bernado Botha, who is out of the match day squad. There is one confirmed change to the forward pack so far, with Khwezi Mona coming in for De-Jay Tereblanche at loosehead prop.

Mentz said that his team’s run of five losses stems from a lack of execution rather than the wrong game plan.

“There hasn’t been a single game where we feel we correctly executed the things we do in training. We’ve done a lot of work on set pieces in training as this is an area which has let us down. We’ll also look to keep the ball in hand and play with some freedom,” said Mentz.

The last time these teams met: A late try from JP Lewis gave Western Province a hard-fought 27-20 (halftime 17-13) victory over the Pumas. The sides were locked at 20-all with with just three minutes left on the clock but a well-worked turn-over resulted in right-wing Lewis breaking down the left-hand touchline to run around and score under the poles to hand the men from Cape Town a hard-fought victory.

Prediction: A scrap between two teams desperate for a result should result in an entertaining game at Newlands. Still, Western Province should be too strong for their winless opponents so we're going for a bonus-point victory for the hosts. Province by 8-10.

The teams:

Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Kobus van Dyk, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Alistair Vermaak
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Scott van Breda

Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 Hoffman Maritz, 12 Hennie Skorbinski, 11 JP Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Emile Temperman 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Lambert Groenewald, 6 Brian Shabangu, 5 Jannie Stander, 4 Steph Greeff, 3 Louis Albertse, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Khwezi Mona
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hugo Kloppers, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Heinrich Steyl, 22 Tyler Fisher

Date: Saturday, September 17
Venue: Newlands
Kick-off: 17:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Francois Pretorius
TMO: Shaun Veldsman