DHL Western Province Under-21 coach John Dobson has announced his team for Saturday’s 2012 Absa Under-21 Final against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Durban (kick-off 14h00).
The WP Under-21 boss has made just one change – at lock – to the line-up that defeated the Sharks 19-18 in dramatic circumstances last Saturday, wing Pat Howard’s last-second try sealing a stunning win.
Said Dobson: “It’s the first time this season that I’ve had the luxury of making a change without my hand being forced – it’s great for continuity ahead of the final.
“The guys invested a lot, emotionally, in last week’s match and, in turn, have gathered a lot of belief from it. They’ve delighted me this week with their renewed enthusiasm for the final.
“We’ve beaten every team in this competition away from home, including the Bulls, so the venue is not an issue for us – in fact, playing at a neutral venue is slightly easier.”
Dobson’s Under-21s have had a difficult season, with injuries and senior team call-ups testing their depth at crucial times.
At one stage this season, over a dozen first-choice U21 players were unavailable for selection, yet the side still made it into the semifinals where they advanced to the final after beating the second-placed Sharks on their own turf last week – ironically the very same venue for this weekend.
Also, what people tend to forget is that the likes of Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Wilhelm van der Sluys (the designated U21 captain this season) and Damian de Allende – all of whom are involved in the senior Absa Currie Cup Final for DHL WP – are all still eligible for this Under-21 team, as are injured loose forwards Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi.
“I really admire this team for its character and work ethic,” said Dobson. “This will remain one of my favourite teams that I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with – whatever happens on Saturday – largely because they have had to deal with so much adversity throughout the season.
“At one stage we had 16 players unavailable, due to call-ups and injuries, but the guys never complained. Instead, they have fought their way into a final and in such a decent and fun way… I honestly believe they deserve the very best on Saturday!”
The weather outlook in Durban is not very favourable ahead of the weekend, but Dobson concluded: “We’ve played six games this year in the pouring rain and if it does indeed rain on Saturday then it would have been our third wet game in Durban in the space of four weeks.
“Hopefully we’ve had enough practice in those conditions, but, like they say, it’s the same for both sides it’s about adapting better on the day.”
The DHL Western Province Under-21 team to take on the Blue Bulls in the Absa Under-21 Final is as follows:
15. Cheslin Kolbe
14. Dillyn Leyds
13. JP du Plessis
12. Kobus van Wyk
11. Pat Howard
10. Tim Swiel
9. Rick Schroeder (captain)
8. Rayn Smid
7. JP Swanepoel
6. Josh Katzen
5. Gerbrandt Grobler
4. Jan de Klerk
3. Oliver Kebble
2. Neil Rautenbach
1. Francois van Wyk (vice-captain)
16. Stephan Coetzee
17. Kelvin de Bruyn
18. Jean Kleyn
19. Jody Reyneke
20. Godlen Masimla
21. Clearance Khumalo
22. Dean Hammond
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe