Western Province coach Allister Coetzee expects to hear from national selection convenor Peter Jooste this week – but it is not just for the Springbok good that he should consider resting some of his key players in the next two matches.
WP still have an interest in the ABSA Currie Cup semi-finals, and skipper Jean de Villiers and his coach have made no secret of the fact that if they do sneak into the play-offs, the Cape team will be aiming to go all the way to a trophy they have not held since 2001.
Gavin Rich writes for SuperRugby that, that however will mean another five matches in the domestic season, with the semi-final coming at the end of a sequence of six successive matches. If you consider that players such as Schalk Burger and De Villiers played three tough Tri-Nations fixtures just before that, it would appear to be a massive gamble to play those players in every game between now and the end.
And that is not just because it will help the Boks on the end of year tour. History has shown that it is often the team with the freshest legs that prevails in a semi-final or final, and the Blue Bulls have taken the opportunity just recently to rest some of the big names in preparation for the deciding phase.
It is entirely possible for WP to rest players as they have two relatively easy fixtures coming up in the form of Griquas in Cape Town on Friday and the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington a week later. But Coetzee’s reluctance to tamper with his best team is understandable as Province have reached a stage of the season where they have to win all their matches with a bonus point.
Griquas beat them in the first round in Kimberley in July, and the Cavaliers have made a habit of making life tough for Province in the annual Cape derby in Wellington. So it would be a gamble for Coetzee either way, and he pointed out on Saturday night, after his team’s 92-15 thumping of the Falcons, that he wants to give combinations a time to grow together.
“There are a lot of considerations to take into account, and one of them is that I would like to see the team reach the semi-finals with the combinations used to playing with each other,” said Coetzee.
“That was something that worked for the Stormers in the Super 14. The best way for a team to come together is to play together.”
Coetzee said it did not just come down to the amount of time the players spent on the field playing in matches, but how they were managed during the week.
“It is difficult to get the mix right. I will probably be spoken to by Peter Jooste, but we are trying to the best of our ability to rest the players.”
The coach is convinced that most of the WP Boks “are still fine”, but there have been times when it has appeared that some of them haven’t been completely as sharp as they could be, and it is for this reason that perhaps thought should be given to playing some of them off the bench rather than in the starting team.
“I think it is also an individual thing,” says Coetzee. “You’ve got to look at Jean de Villiers and see how many matches and how many hours he has played this season, the type of player he is and the type of contact he makes.
“That is why the issue with someone like Schalk Burger would be completely different. That is how I am looking at it. I think I am still within my boundaries. They are not burnt out yet. But I agree that it is a tough call.”
WP have just two minor injury problems to contend with before naming their starting team for the Griquas match. Lock Adriaan Fondse sustained a head knock and Schalk Brits complained of a problem with his chest after the Falcons game, which WP dominated from start to finish as they thoroughly avenged their shock under-strength first round defeat in Brakpan.Tweet