Key forwards Oliver Kebble and Rayn Smid will front up for the DHL Western Province Under-21 team in Saturday’s Absa Provincial Under-21 Final against the Blue Bulls at DHL Newlands.
Kebble and Smid both missed the U21s’ dramatic 44-41 extra-time semifinal win over the Golden Lions last weekend and will add plenty of grunt to the Province back for the final (kick-off 14h30).
Smid is a definite starter at No.8, having shaken off a shoulder injury, but Kebble will be given until kick-off to prove his fitness after sustaining an ankle injury in his team’s final league match against the Sharks two weeks ago.
“I am thrilled that we have players coming back from injury,” WP Under-21 coach John Dobson told wprugby.
“Ollie should be okay – we will give him until the last minute. He not only brings a lot to the team as a player but also as a team man. Rayn and (centre) Kobus van Wyk are also two vital returnees as they are our number ones in their position and both bring lots to the party.
“However,” added Dobson, “if Ollie is not okay, then Justin Ackerman will start at loosehead and Deacon Chowles will come onto the bench.”
The return of Smid sees Sikhumbuzo Notshe move back to his regular position at No.7, with WP Under-21 captain Josh Katzen shifting across to No.6. In two final changes up front, Stephan Coetzee will start at hooker, with Michael Willemse warming the bench, and Ackerman drops to the bench to make way for Kebble.
In the backline, meanwhile, fit-again inside centre Kobus van Wyk slots straight back into the midfield, with Johnny Kotze shifting out to outside centre and Pat Howard being deployed on the wing for the final.
Said Dobson: “We are terribly excited to be playing a home final at our level, the first in many a year. We had to travel to play the Bulls in 2010 and 2012, so we’re grateful to our senior team for getting us the privilege to play at home.
“Hopefully some of the DHL Newlands Faithful will get there a bit earlier to watch what has been a good Under-21 team that has represented the union with pride in action one last time this year.
“We know that we are up against it,” added Dobson. “We have had a few injuries and the Bulls have been given massive momentum by the addition of their players who played for their Absa Currie Cup team. But I would rather have it the Province way where our seniors make the final!”
The WP Under-21 team has not lost since their opening league fixture of 2013 – in Bloemfontein against the Free State Cheetahs in July.
They eventually finished their regular league season with a staggering 54 log points from 12 matches – scoring 478 points and conceding just 193. In the process, they also scored the most tries – 97 – and conceded the fewest – 26 – of all teams in the 2013 Absa Provincial Under-21 Competition.
“We know we were underwhelming against the Lions (last Saturday),” admitted Dobson.
“As much as we tried we did not get over the fact that we were overwhelming favourites and were not desperate or angry enough and the Lions taught us a lesson there. That won’t be the case this week.
“We have had a great group this season – consisting of some every talented players and quality individuals who have done the Blue & White hoops proud and we have enjoyed fantastic support from our union. It’s now up to us to put the icing on the cake (on Saturday). It won’t be easy… but we can.”
The DHL WP Under-21 team to take on the Blue Bulls in the final is as follows:
15. Dillyn Leyds
14. Pat Howard
13. Johnny Kotze
12. Kobus van Wyk
11. Devon Williams
10. Tim Swiel
9. Godlen Masimla
8. Rayn Smid
7. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
6. Josh Katzen (captain)
5. Ruan Botha
4. Jean Kleyn
3. Entienne Swanepoel
2. Stephan Coetzee
1. Oliver Kebble
16. Michael Willemse
17. Justin Ackerman
18. Carel du Preez
19. Eital Bredenkamp
20. Jean Nel
21. Craig Barry
22. JP Lewis
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge