Western Province had an injury list on Sunday that was as long as coach Allister Coetzee’s arm, but there was at least one bit of good news – influential No 8 Duane Vermeulen will return to action this week.
Vermeulen has been off the playing field since May due to a knee injury. He started training again towards the end of the Super Rugby season but Coetzee did not play him in the semifinal against the Sharks because he was still not 100% ready.
His return will come as a timely boost for Province as they face a tough away fixture against Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday off the back of an opening home defeat to the Sharks.
Two successive losses to the Sharks will have undermined the confidence of a union that has become used to winning, and with two more big games against the Lions (away) and Bulls (home) to follow, WP will want to get back on the bike as quickly as possible.
Vermeulen is a recognised leader in the team so having his experience available will be welcomed by a management who would have felt after the Sharks game that lack of experience was something that cost them.
WP will lack the experience of Deon Carstens against Griquas. The loosehead has sustained a broken nose that will put him out for two weeks.
However WP are set to welcome back Steven Kitshoff, who missed the Sharks match because of a knee injury.
There will be further changes at fullback and flyhalf. Joe Pietersen has a wrist injury and will probably be replaced by Gio Aplon against Griquas. Gary van Aswegen will play ahead of Burton Francis, who has a knee injury.
In addition to welcoming back Kitshoff and Vermeulen, the WP medical staff will be assessing the condition of Rynhardt Elstadt after he missed the Sharks game with a groin injury.