The unbeaten DHL Western Province team will continue to push for that top of the log finish in the South Section of the 2015 Vodacom Cup competition when they head to Bloemfontein to take on the Free State XV on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon‘s clash will get underway at 14h30 and will be televised live on SuperSport One as the official curtain-raiser to the Cheetahs v DHL Stormers Super Rugby clash at 17h05.
DHL WP, of course, retained their unbeaten status courtesy of a clinical 21-14 win over Griquas in Kimberley last weekend and coach John Dobson is hoping for a similar mental approach from his charges in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Dobson told wprugby.com: “I wouldn’t say it was our best performance (in Kimberley), but the players’ attitude and mental approach was spot on!
“If we come with that same approach this weekend, against this tough Free State XV, we should be okay.
“Make no mistake, I think this is the best Free State Vodacom Cup team I’ve seen in a while… They’re a bit like Shimlas (who won the Varsity Cup) in that they’re a good all-round team with a strong maul, so we’re aware that this will be a massive test for us in what’s been a tough run-in to the play-offs.”
Province have picked up wins over Boland (away), the Sharks (home), the Kings (away), Border (home) and Griquas (away) thus far, with two more league matches (this weekend and next weekend) remaining.
Dobson added: “It might sound weird when I say this, but I don’t think we’ve hit our straps as yet; this team can get better and we look forward to playing on the nice surface in Bloemfontein.”
The DHL WP Vodacom Cup boss has made a few changes to his team this week – from the side that did duty in Kimberley.
The new faces in the starting XV are prop Sti Sithole, hooker Neil Rautenbach, flanker Jurie van Vuuren, outside centre Pat Howard, right-wing Willy Ambaka and fullback EW Viljoen.
Robert du Preez moves from inside centre to flyhalf, with Jean-Luc du Plessis on the bench, whilst Kyle Lombard (inside centre) will combine in the midfield with Howard, who made his Super Rugby debut last weekend.
“Ali Vermaak has gone back up to the DHL Stormers team, so it’s good timing to have Sti Sithole back from his ankle injury,” explained Dobson.
“Neil Rautenbach has been with the DHL Stormers this season, and he needs game time, so we’ve rotated our hookers this week and Charlie van Jaarsveld sits out.
“In the backline, Rob du Preez was our starting flyhalf during our pre-season campaign, but then he got injured, so it’s only fair to give him a shot back at No.10 – despite Jean-Luc du Plessis performing so well for us up until now.
“Rob’s move back to flyhalf sees Kyle Lombard back at No.12, where we feel he is better off, and then, of course, we have our vice-captain Pat Howard back (at centre) – as a fully-fledged Stormer!
“Willy Ambaka deserves a start on the wing and it’s great to have EW Viljoen in at fullback – he did very well for us from the bench last weekend.”
DHL WP are one of just two unbeaten teams remaining in the entire 2015 Vodacom Cup (the other side being the Golden Lions in the North Section), but they cannot afford any slip-ups as they chase that top of the log finish in their group.
After this weekend’s tough one in Bloemfontein, they will host the SWD Eagles back at DHL Newlands on Saturday, May 9 (kick-off 14h45).
Said Dobson: “We’re focused on finishing strongly and this game is part of that focus.
“We’re certainly not looking ahead to the play-offs, but last year one bad league game basically cost us a chance to have a say in the knockouts, so we are very aware that we need to be on our game… or else.”
The DHL Western Province team to face the Free State XV (away) is as follows:
15. EW Viljoen
14. Willy Ambaka
13. Pat Howard (vice-captain)
12. Kyle Lombard
11. Tshotsho Mbovane
10. Robert du Preez
9. Godlen Masimla
8. Rayn Smid
7. Jurie van Vuuren
6. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
5. Chris van Zyl (captain)
4. Jan de Klerk
3. Wilco Louw
2. Neil Rautenbach
1. Sti Sithole
16. Michael Willemse
17. Deacon Chowles
18. Luke van der Smit
19. Justin Benn
20. SP Ferreira
21. Jean-Luc du Plessis
22. JP Lewis
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistant referees: Rodney Boneparte, Local
TMO: Deon van Blommestein