Young debutants excite Coetzee
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee is looking forward to the Currie Cup debuts of two exciting Under-21 stars in Friday’s clash against Griquas.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee is looking forward to the Currie Cup debuts of two exciting Under-21 stars in Friday’s clash against Griquas at Newlands.
The one-match suspension of Michael Rhodes for stamping on Blue Bulls captain Jono Ross in the 29-18 win at Loftus Versfeld last Saturday and injury enforced absence of captain Deon Fourie have left the defending champions bare in second and back row stocks.
Coetzee on Tuesday consequently included uncapped rookies Josh Katzen and Rayn Smid on the bench, along with Demetri Catrakilis, who returns from his Super Rugby stint with the Southern Kings in place of the injured Gary van Aswegen as back-up flyhalf.
Rather than dwell on the negatives relating to Rhodes’ ban, Coetzee is looking at the positives - blooding two players who have played starring roles for the Western Province Under-21 side this season and seeing how they cope with the step-up to Currie Cup level.
“It’s another case of young players getting an opportunity at Currie Cup level and I’m really looking forward to see how those youngsters go,” Coetzee said on Tuesday.
“Both Josh Katzen and Rayn Smid have played very well for the Under-21 side and with the Under-21s being off this weekend, it gives me an opportunity to look at these two players.”
Despite being named on the bench, Coetzee said the duo have specific roles they would have to fill on Friday.
“Josh is obviously an openside flank who is hard on the ground. You have to match what they [Griquas] bring and that’s how we selected.
“There will be a battle at the breakdown - they have Marnus Schoeman and Carel Greeff, and [Howard] Mnisi is also hard on the ground. We have Rohan [Kitshoff] who plays that role, towards the ball, and Josh is similar.
“Rayn is a line-out specialist and is also a good ball carrier, so he could also play No.7 and play that role for us,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee also had praise for pivot Kurt Coleman, a player who was thrust into the starting line-up as a result of injuries to Van Aswegen and Catrakilis.
The Western Province coach suggested the debutants could look to Coleman as an example of a player who’s made the most of the opportunity he’s received.
“It’s great to see how Kurt Coleman has developed and grown in confidence as a player. I’m really pleased with his efforts this season. He does the basics well, he kicks the goals, his kicking out of hand has been good and defensively he’s put in a massive effort,” he said.
“His general attack is also coming along nicely and the team function well. It’ll be a different challenge this weekend. It should be a wet surface and hopefully Kurt will be able to do well in those conditions as well.”
Another player who finds himself in a chance role is De Kock Steenkamp, who retains the responsibilities of stand-in skipper.
He admitted the prospect of him captaining the team on home soil came as a major surprise.
“At the start of the year I would never have imagined that I would captain Western Province at Newlands. Like last week, it’ll be a new challenge for me and it’s one I’m looking forward to,” said the lock.
Steenkamp said the team took pride in the way in which they held on to beat the Blue Bulls after playing the entire second half with just 14 men but stressed the win would be undone if they failed to pitch up on Friday.
“We showed good heart to win with 14 men but the key is to back it up on Friday. You’re only as good as your last game, so we have to prove ourselves again [against Griquas].”
As line-out kingpin, Steenkamp said their play in this set-piece has been below par and has been a focus this week.
“The line-out has been an area of concern for us but with Tazz [Methetheleli Fuzani] playing in his second game, he’ll be more settled and we have Rayn on the bench, so it should function better this weekend.”
He added that the team aren’t focused on their unbeaten record, position at the top of the table or their lack of four-try bonus points.
“We’re just focused on getting our structures right and we believe that if we do that, the log and bonus points will take care of itself,” said Steenkamp.