Impressive rookie prop Steven Kitshoff – the flame-haired 20-year-old who has manfully stepped into the Western Province number 1 jersey in the injury-enforced absence of Wicus Blaauw – has himself been ruled out for four weeks, making life somewhat difficult for his coach, Alister Coetzee.
Province have been forced to have a very good look at their reserve stocks so far this season, with an injury toll hovering somewhere between “freakish” and “absolutely bloody unbearable” dogging them pretty much all year long. The curse that saw the Stormers lose one flyhalf after another during the Super Rugby season has continued unabated into the Currie Cup, with virtually every position in the side coming under strain at some point or other.
Not a side to ever face accusations of front-row depth, it’s not only there that Coetzee will need to scratch his head for a replacement. Ish Dolliee, literally the umpteenth flyhalf chosen by the coach this year, hurt his ankle during Saturday’s loss to the Bulls and is in serious doubt for the game, while reserve scrumhalf Nic Groom has definitely been ruled out for up to three weeks as well. The loss of Groom makes it less likely that Coetzee can risk throwing his regular scrumhalf, Dewald Duvenage, in at flyhalf and might be forced to turn to the likes of Lionel Cronje, who is now back from injury but very short of game time.
Expect, then, to see some interesting selection for Province in this weekend’s team to face the Cheetahs at Newlands. One unforced change that has been mooted is the selection of hooker Deon Fourie at the side of the scrum, so we’ll have to wait and see if that one indeed materialises. Province must be under huge pressure going into this game, though, knowing that their home semi-final hopes are now well under threat after the Loftus reversal. They will have noted how the Cheetahs systematically dismantled a Sharks side that, on paper at least, looked far stronger than anything they will be able to cobble together this weekend.
That said, Coetzee and his charges have been consistently punching above their weight this Currie Cup and taking injuries into their stride. Fans of the blue and white hoops can take much heart from this fact as the season nears its business end.Tweet