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Province's front row shuffle

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 08:25
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The only unforced change to the Western Province team to face the Cheetahs is at prop as Allister Coetzee looks to manage his front row resources carefully.

The Western Province coach has been hit hard by injury in certain positions this season, but there is some pleasing depth up front which has given him the opportunity to rotate his players.

Coetzee has opted to go with the experienced duo of Brok Harris and Deon Carstens to partner young hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni up front in Bloemfontein this weekend, with young guns Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe set to provide an impact off the bench.

Carstens was impressive up against Blue Bulls tighthead Werner Kruger in the crushing victory at Newlands last week, and Coetzee explained that he was delighted with the competitive environment in the front row at the moment.

"Players understand when they need to work harder, we have got an experienced player in Deon Carstens, he does a good job for us there and he has been playing well.

"If you are off the pace a bit then obviously I have got to give an opportunity to a guy who is performing.

"Kitshoff has made a great impact when he has come on so I think they are dovetailing well in the loosehead department.

"We have given Frans [Malherbe] four starts and that is one area where we can use our rotation policy, whereby Brok [Harris] gets a start again," he said.

The Province mentor admitted that the experience factor will be crucial against the Cheetahs who will be tough customers on their home turf.

"It is never easy playing away and this is a fantastic Cheetahs side that always asks a lot of questions in the set-pieces, so hopefully with the experience we have in our front row we will settle easily at scrum-time.

"We have been scrumming well, it is getting there and this weekend is another challenge for us and hopefully the experience of Deon [Carstens] and Brok [Harris] will allow us to overcome that hurdle," he said.

It has been a big year for the young Kitshoff who came through the Super Rugby marathon and then won the IRB Junior World Championship with the Baby Boks, so his current role as an impact player might be ideal for his development.

Carstens' experience makes him a dependable option who can also mentor Kitshoff as Coetzee tries to manage the young prop's workload as carefully as possible.

Carstens commented: "I think my role is to help him [Kitshoff]. He has played a lot of rugby this year so I think it is important to keep young prospects like that fresh.

"It works well with the bit of rotation we have in the front row, you don't want to end up in the last three weeks of the Currie Cup and you sit with a guy that has played 20/30 games and you don't have any impact.

"I think it opens up the door for the coaches to make decisions for the big games, and as long as there is competition where we push each other harder then it brings the best out of the team," he added.

By Michael de Vries

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