Former Sharks captain and battle-hardened utility forward AJ Venter looks a good bet to lead Western Province when they kick-off their Currie Cup campaign against the Sharks, in Durban, on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that Venter caused a stir when he moved to Cape Town, from Durban, after the Super 14 tournament – a transfer that came as the result of a contractual dispute.
In the absence of natural choices like Jean de Villiers, Luke Watson and Schalk Burger, all off whom are away on duty with the Springboks, the WP captaincy burden may fall squarely on the broad shoulders of Venter – who was a regular stand-in captain at the Sharks in both the Super 14 and Currie Cup competitions.
WP will reveal the name of the captain for their opening match on Wednesday.
After his excellent leadership display with the Stormers, De Villiers had the strongest claims to the WP captaincy, but the Springboks are only likely to see Currie Cup action at the start of September.
As a result, the WP management may decide to appoint an interim captain, and Venter looks tailor-made for the job.
His in-your-face style will be useful in a side which will struggle to win matches while their Boks – all 11 of them, are away.
WP’s Springbok squad members include Conrad Jantjes, Jean de Villiers, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Peter Grant, Bolla Conradie, Schalk Brits, Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker, Luke Watson and Schalk Burger.
Venter said this week that he was looking forward to making his WP debut, even if it was at his old stomping ground, at the ‘Shark Tank’ in Durban.
New WP coach Allister Coetzee has not yet decided where he’ll employ Venter, but the veteran Springbok forward – who has retired from international duty – is likely to plug the loose forward gaps left by Burger, Watson and Robbie Diack – the latter now playing in Wales.
Venter is equally at home at lock, flank and No.8, although by his own admission he’s not “the fastest around the park” these days.
Then, of course, WP’s other off-season buy, flyhalf Willem de Waal, will also be key to the team’s Currie Cup fortunes this season. He is a prolific points scorer with the boot, and his feats at the Free State Cheetahs have been well documented.
In the absence of their stars, WP still have the services of several Super 14 stars like Ross Skeate, Adriaan Fondse, Brok Harris, Deon Fourie, Dylan des Fountain, Francois Louw and Wylie Human to call on.
The Sharks too will be playing without a host of Springboks. Their Springbok squad complement include Frans Steyn, Adrian Jacobs, Bismarck du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, BJ Botha, Odwa Ndungane and Ruan Pienaar.
However, they will be relying on their Super 14 stalwarts like Stefan Terblanche, Waylon Murray, JP Pietersen (just released from the Bok squad), Rory Kockott, Keegan Daniel, Albert van den Berg and Jannie du Plessis to keep their Currie Cup hopes alive.Tweet