DHL WP U21s bracing for physical Leopards

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The table-topping DHL Western Province Under-21 side is bracing for a tough encounter when they face up to the Leopards U21s at Olën Park in Potchefstroom on Saturday (kick-off 12h30).

“We’re bracing ourselves for a physical challenge on Saturday,” DHL WP Under-21 coach John Dobson told wprugby.com.

“The Leopards Under-21s have a big and strong pack and play typical Blue Bulls rugby. In fact, they stood up to the Bulls U21s in every facet last weekend.

“Don’t let the scoreline (of 37-10 to the Bulls) fool you. They stopped the Bulls’ maul and they got stuck in up front… the Bulls scored three tries in the last five minutes to make the scoreline look a lot better in the end.”

The DHL WP U21s have had to contend with quite a few injuries this week, most notably at lock where both Jan Uys and Sebastian Ferreira are sidelined – just a few weeks after star second row JD Schickerling suffered a very serious neck injury (against the Bulls).

Uys is expected back in the next fortnight, but Ferreira will miss the remainder of the 2014 Absa Provincial Under-21 season with an ankle injury – along with inside backs Chris Smith (broken ankle), Janco Gunter (broken hand) and wing Lihleli Xoli (ankle).

“We’ve now lost four backs for the rest of the season in the space of just three weeks,” said Dobson.

“Lihleli Xoli’s injury was especially gutting for us, it happened at training and now he’s out for the rest of the season, but, I guess, it’s part and parcel of rugby and proves just how much depth you require to have a successful season.

“That said, despite losing a few players to injury I still think we’re able to put out quite a strong starting XV. Some of our frontline players, Eital Bredenkamp, Jean Nel and Robert du Preez – all of whom missed the Border game, are back this week and I fancy this team to do the job for us.

“At the same time, it’s also an exciting opportunity for two club players, locks Jade Kriel and Kobus van Dyk, to come in and show what they can do in the absence of Jan and Sebastian and with potential play-off selections up for grabs. Both Jade and Kobus have trained well this week and they deserve this opportunity (on Saturday).”

Aside from their whopping 91-7 win over Border last weekend (their seventh bonus point win of 2014), the DHL WP U21s received a further boost last weekend when their closest rivals, the Lions, went down at home to the Sharks.

The Province U21s now top the log by two points, with a game in hand over the Lions U21s, but there is extra incentive for Dobson’s charges to remain in first place as the season nears its business-end.

Said Dobson: “You don’t want to run into a rampant Bulls team in the semifinals, especially if they decide to call upon some players from their senior team, so there is plenty incentive to finish top of the log.

“Like I said, the Leopards are a physical team, but if we can match them up front I have enough belief in our attack – and on a good surface at Olën Park – to hurt the Leopards out wide.”

The DHL WP Under-21 team for Saturday (v Leopards, away) is as follows:

15. EW Viljoen
14. Dalen Goliath
13. Johnny Kotze
12. Kyle Lombard
11. JP Lewis
10. Robert du Preez
9. Jean Nel
8. Carel du Preez
7. Justin Benn
6. Eital Bredenkamp (captain)
5. Jade Kriel
4. Jurie van Vuuren
3. Deacon Chowles
2. Michael Willemse
1. Sti Sithole

Replacements:
16. Chad Solomon
17. John Meyer
18. Kobus van Dyk
19. Tapiwa Tsomondo
20. Luke van der Smit
21. SP Ferreira
22. WJ Strydom

Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys

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