If we are going to win trophies we got to have a front row that can challenge the likes of the Sharks and Crusaders
Not even the sudden Springbok call-up of Tiaan Liebenberg can convince Western Province forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot that his team is in trouble.
Liebenberg's Bok call-up on Wednesday necessitated some late changes to the WP team ahead of Saturday's Currie Cup meeting with Griquas in Kimberley.
WP captain Deon Fourie has been moved from flank to his regular position of hooker, while Tyrone Holmes shifted across to take over Fourie's No 6 jersey, with Canadian Jebb Sinclair promoted from the bench to take up the No 7 position.
Even with these late changes Proudfoot feels his forwards will be up for the challenge presented by the bruising pack from Kimberley.
In fact he sees it all as the part of building a pack that can "dominate" the set pieces in Super Rugby in the future.
"I don't think it is too much of a disruption this week," Proudfoot told this website, when asked about Liebenberg's withdrawal.
"Deon [Fourie] for a large part of the season has been our starting hooker, so I don't think that is a big issue.
"It is great for Tiaan to get the opportunity. Him and Deon have been competing in our side for that position of top hooker, but Tiaan got the nod from the [Bok] selectors ... which is good for him.
"However, we will continue doing what we are doing.
"I stressed to the front row last week that we must develop the mentality of a dominant front row if we ever want to win trophies and I thought we took a step forward [against the Sharks last week].
"Deon gets an opportunity to continue that development and it is exciting."
Proudfoot has no doubt that the team's tight five, despite having the dubious reputation of being the team's soft underbelly, are making good progress in their drive to become a dominant force on both the domestic scene and Super Rugby stage.
"The front row for me is vital," Proudfoot told this website, adding: "If we are going to get trophies we got to have a front row that can, not just physically but emotionally, challenge the likes of the Sharks front row and Crusaders front row.
"That is what we are trying to develop in this Currie Cup.
"There is a 21-year-old [Steven Kitshoff] and a 22-year-old [Frans Malherbe] ... they have to learn to have that killer instinct now.
"I thought they were good up front there against the Sharks, albeit that being the Sharks' second-string front row," he said of his team's 23-25 loss to the men from Durban in the opening round of the Currie Cup competition last week.
"However, it is the mentality that I am after and that I saw from the ... that I am happy with."
At lock and loose forward WP have also been depleted, through injury and national call-ups, but the forwards mentor is adamant they are well equipped to cope with the rigours of domestic rugby.
"What is nice is that De Kock [Steenkamp] is developing into a real solid lock forward ... he is 25 and that is the age you look for a tight forward to start coming through.
"Don [Armand] is in a development phase where we had [Rynhardt] Elstadt last season. He [Elstadt] played at No.4 and moved to No.7. If we are ever going to look to have a second Elstadt in the side, this is the development Don is after.
"With that perspective I am really happy with what they delivered," he said of the team's performance against the Sharks last week.
"Don, we worked hard on his contesting and we worked hard on his line-out work and I saw some good signs there last weekend. If you step it up to Super Rugby level you got to have a loose forward at the back of the line-out that can dominate. By pushing him up front there as a No.4 lock it is giving him that skill set and developing him.
"I feel [Canadian import] Jebb [Sinclair] is a good, solid forward ... he is delivering for us week in and week out.
"Tyrone [Holmes] is having an opportunity.
"I am happy with what we have got, we just got to keep improving and performing as a pack."
By Jan de Koning