Why WP are sticking to their guns
Why WP are sticking to their gunsSHARE
Western Province and the Sharks have taken contrasting approaches to the Currie Cup with Province favouring continuity and the Sharks opting for a squad rotation policy.
The respective teams selected for this weekend's clash between the coastal outfits at Newlands illustrate this quite well, with the Sharks making five changes to the team that beat the Blue Bulls last week and WP switching just their scrumhalves.
Sharks captain Jacques Botes says that he and his teammates have embraced new Director of Rugby Brendan Venter's rotation system as it encourages competition in the squad whilst ensuring that everyone gets a chance to impress.
Things in Cape Town could not be more different, with Province coach Allister Coetzee keeping as much consistency in selection as possible in order to give his side a chance to build momentum.
When asked by this website what he thinks of the Sharks' selection policy, Coetzee declined to comment and instead explained that he has complete faith in the value of continuity as his side look for an 80-minute performance on Saturday.
"Whatever they are doing there they think it is working for them so all good. I have got my own ways of doing things and we are really satisfied with where we are.
"With our continuity that we are keeping every week I would like to see us put two halves together and come and play in the second half with the same intent – that is what we have been working on the whole week, making sure that we get that right," said Coetzee.
The selection of Louis Schreuder ahead of Nic Groom at scrumhalf this weekend is a tactical one as Coetzee is expecting the Sharks to bring a disciplined kicking game to Newlands which he feels that Schreuder is better equipped to deal with.
"Looking at the way that the game will be played this weekend Schreuder will be covering a lot of kicking space at the back and he has got a good boot on him therefore he is back and starting again," he said.
Coetzee said that the changes in the Sharks backline, with Butch James and Tim Whitehead preferred ahead of Fred Zeilinga and Heimar Williams, show that the visitors appreciate the need for experience when taking on the defending champions on their home track.
"Newlands is quite an intimidating field and coming here is not always easy. I also notice that Tim Whitehead is playing and the youngster Heimar Williams is out.
"With Butch in and the other 10 [Fred Zeilinga] out it shows that they are coming with an experienced side and they want to make sure that they have a team with the power and physicality to play against Province which I can understand," he said.
However, the same cannot be said for the changes the Sharks have made to their front row, with inexperienced props Danie Mienie and Rayno Gerber getting an opportunity, which Coetzee believes may be a reaction to their poor scrummaging performance against the Bulls last week.
"I suppose they weren't happy with the way their scrums went against the Bulls, and I suppose that is why they made those changes.
"I am fortunate that we have been able to keep continuity within our team and we have learned every week and improved at scrum-time. Last week we were happy with the way we scrummed so it is important to keep the continuity," he said.
Although he might favour a different selection policy, Coetzee knows that the table-topping Sharks will be a tough prospect as his team look to continue their unbeaten run in the competition.
"We are playing the log-leaders in the last game of the first round and we just want to make sure that we are accurate in what we are doing.
"I am very happy with our preparation and the intent we showed against the Lions with ball in hand and defensively we have been strong so it is going to be a tough game this weekend once again," he said.
By Michael de Vries