Deon has been appointed the captain and that is how I still see it at this point
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee faces a tough decision about who will lead his team in the knock-out stage of the Currie Cup.
The defending champions have already booked a home semifinal regardless of what happens in their big clash with the Sharks on Saturday, and although Coetzee's focus is squarely on the showdown at Kings Park, he will have a big call to make once the dust settles in Durban.
On the one hand there is Deon Fourie who led Province to their first Currie Cup title in 11 years last year and has been a stand-out player once again this year, and on the other hand there is Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers.
Fourie has proven himself to be the ultimate team man, converting from hooker to loose forward with great success and leading Province through their unbeaten run in the Currie Cup this year.
However, it is tough to overlook the credentials of De Villiers who has taken to his role as national skipper exceptionally well, with the added responsibility spurring him on to some of the best form of his career.
When approached by this website to reveal his thinking on the matter, Coetzee was reluctant to commit and said that his decision will be influenced by what happens this weekend.
"Everything is still dependent on what happens this weekend, if there is an injury to Deon then there is no debate about it. I will look at what the best possible team would be for us and look at the opposition.
"At this point I can't really say what the team will be next week, I can only announce next week's team and tell you that is my captain," he said.
Coetzee spoke this week about the Currie Cup transforming into a localised version of Super Rugby with all of the Springboks back in the mix, and it is De Villiers, not Fourie, who captains the Stormers.
But he admitted that having appointed Fourie as Western Province skipper at the start of the competition, it would be pretty harsh to take the position from him at this late stage.
"Deon has been appointed the captain and that is how I still see it at this point in time. We are playing as Western Province now," he said.
Neither De Villiers or fellow Province stalwart Schalk Burger have ever won a Currie Cup title as they were injured when the Fourie lifted the trophy last year, but Coetzee insists that they have been fully supportive of him and dismissed any suggestion of a power struggle at Newlands.
"They have been so supportive of Deon, which is fantastic. With all of their experience and desire to win and retain a Currie Cup. It has shown throughout this week how they support Deon," he said.
De Villiers and Burger will both play off the bench against the Sharks this weekend, which gives Coetzee some time to consider his options, but by next week he will have to nail his colours to the mast.
Will he opt for De Villiers' obvious seniority, or will he remain loyal to the captain that has led his side to the favourable position they find themselves in?
By Michael de Vries