Bok centre 50-50 for semifinal
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee regards the perceived captaincy conundrum that he is faced with as a positive.
Coetzee this week has to decide who will lead his side in Saturday’s semifinal against the Golden Lions at Newlands.
On the one side is livewire utility forward Deon Fourie, who led the team to their first Currie Cup title in 11 years last season and picked up where he left off in 2012 by taking the team to the top of the table and a possible home Final after an unbeaten regular season this year.
On the other side is inspirational Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who along with a number of his Springbok teammates, returned from national duty in the 17-13 win over the Sharks in Durban at the weekend.
The captaincy poser leaves Coetzee in a difficult position, but he insists having an abundance of leaders is a positive for the team.
“We don’t see it as a conundrum but a bonus that we have the national captain in our side as well,” Coetzee said on Monday.
While Coetzee kept his cards close to his chest, he did make some comments that suggest Fourie could retain the captaincy.
“One must decide on the team firstly,” he said. “Deon has earned his place in the team and has led the team really well up to now.
“We have sufficient leaders in our squad, which is so needed in play-off matches, players like Schalk [Burger], Duane [Vermeulen] and Jean to help Deon.”
Coetzee hailed the impact his returning Springboks made in the crunch clash at Kings Park, saying, “What was pleasing for me was how our Springboks settled into the team and came up with big performances. They really stood up for us.”
The Cape side escaped the physical Durban derby with no serious injuries and although a number of players including Fourie, Duane Vermeulen and De Kock Steenkamp sat out Monday’s training session due to “bumps and bruises”, they will all be available for selection.
“It’s that time of the season where the workload has taken its toll and you don’t want players to train and then come Saturday they’re tired. You want them fresh on Saturday and that’s the challenge for us this week, to make sure the players are able to play at the same intensity they played with last weekend and even better.”
There was mixed news regarding two players who missed the game against the Sharks through injury. Utility forward Rynhardt Elstadt is back to full fitness and took part in full training on Monday, however, Springbok centre Juan de Jongh, who withdrew from the team at the last minute, remains doubtful.
“At this point in time he’s still 50-50,” admitted Coetzee.
“He was doing some individual testing [today] and we’ll put him through some more tomorrow [Tuesday]. By Wednesday we’ll have a good indication as to how he is,” said Coetzee, adding, “We’ll take as much time as possible to make the decision.”
Coetzee added that while he's pleased that his side ticked all the boxes in the regular season, they know full well that all their hard work will come to naught if they slip-up on Saturday.
“The most important game for us is this weekend’s game,” he stressed.
“Finishing top of the log doesn’t mean that you play in the Final, what it implies is that we’ve done the hard work, but this weekend is the most important one for us.”