Fit-again loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe will wear the No.7 jersey for DHL Western Province in Saturday’s Vodacom Cup semifinal against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at DHL Newlands (kick-off 16h30).
Notshe missed his team’s 47-22 quarterfinal win over the Leopards XV last weekend with a hamstring niggle, but his return this week is one of just three changes to the DHL WP line-up.
Justin Benn – who scored two tries last Saturday – drops to the bench to make way for Notshe, whilst the hard-running Pat Howard will start in the No.14 jersey – in place of JP Lewis – and Sti Sithole replaces Ali Vermaak at loosehead prop.
Deacon Chowles (prop) and Kyle Lombard (centre) are the new faces on the bench, as DHL WP, the South Section winners this year, play for the right to host the 2015 Vodacom Cup Final – three years after their maiden triumph in this competition.
“We have kept our changes to a minimum this week,” explained coach John Dobson, who has guided his team to a perfect season thus far.
“Sikhumbuzo Notshe comes in on the flank – I know he loves occasions such as these. Pat Howard, who played Super Rugby a few weeks ago on the wing, replaces JP Lewis and will certainly add something to the starting line-up too.”
DHL WP and the Bulls have enjoyed numerous battles of late – both at junior and senior provincial level – and Dobson’s team is relishing the prospect of going up against the old enemy one more time, in Saturday’s curtain-raiser to the DHL Stormers v Rebels Super Rugby battle at 19h10.
“It is a fantastic occasion – playing against our old rivals in a semifinal at DHL Newlands,” Dobson told the wprugby.com website.
“(And) that is probably what we have talked about most to the players – the need to go out there and enjoy it and not retreat into the shells because of what will be a highly pressured game. It’s a very young group and they will benefit a lot from this experience.
“We know the Bulls game and this is a good Bulls side at this level as we saw in their demolition of Free State last week.
“The thing about playing the Bulls is that you have to handle their physicality and directness which is the nucleus of the game and I feel we have the pack and players to do this. If we can get the intensity of our second half last week we will be fine.”
* Match tickets, priced between R80 and R140, can still be purchased ahead of Saturday’s Vodacom Cup and Super Rugby matches at DHL Newlands – with tickets valid for both games – either online, at wprugby.computicket.com, or from Computicket outlets and Shoprite & Checkers stores nationwide.
The DHL Western Province team to face the Blue Bulls (home) is as follows:
15. EW Viljoen
14. Pat Howard
13. Jaco Taute
12. Robert du Preez
11. Tshotsho Mbovane
10. Jean-Luc du Plessis
9. Godlen Masimla
8. Rayn Smid
7. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
6. Tapiwa Tsomondo
5. Chris van Zyl
4. Jan de Klerk
3. Wilco Louw
2. Michael Willemse (captain)
1. Sti Sithole
16. Charlton van Jaarsveld
17. Deacon Chowles
18. Wilhelm van der Sluys
19. Justin Benn
20. Justin Phillips
21. Kyle Lombard
22. Willy Ambaka
Referee: Lesego ‘Pro’ Legoete
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Rodney Boneparte Rodney
TMO: Deon van Blommestein