Defending champions DHL Western Province have received a big boost ahead of Friday evening’s Absa Currie Cup away clash against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs with the return of fit-again forwards Deon Fourie and Schalk Burger.
Fourie returns from a two-week lay-off with a rib injury and will resume the captaincy and once again wear the No.6 jersey, whilst Springbok star Burger will make his comeback via the bench, having been out of action for 18 months with a series of injuries.
The return of Fourie is one of three changes to the WP starting line-up that began against Griquas last Friday (a game won 19-13 by Province), with Burger’s return seeing coach Allister Coetzee opt for a five/two (forwards/backs) split amongst the replacements.
The other changes to the Province starting team for this week see Michael Rhodes start at No.7 (in place of WP Under-21 star Rayn Smid) and Michael van der Spuy will wear the No.13 jersey in the absence of Springbok squad member Juan de Jongh.
WP Under-21 captain Josh Katzen, meanwhile, retains his place on the bench after his bright second-half cameo against Griquas, with Smid and Rohan Kitshoff the unfortunate loose forwards to miss out on selection this week.
DHL WP coach Allister Coetzee told www.wprugby.com: “We’re fortunate to welcome back Deon Fourie, Michael Rhodes and Schalk Burger this week – it would be a boost for any team to have players of their quality slot back in.
“I don’t think Schalk will get more than 20 minutes on Friday, but it’s all part of his comeback (introducing him from the bench) and we will see how we can use him and how he goes. He’s looked sharp at training, and there are bound to be a few timing issues, but we all look forward to seeing how he goes.
“There is bound to be plenty of focus on Schalk’s return, but, for us, it’s about going to Bloemfontein and picking up the points for the sake of the team and our 2013 Absa Currie Cup campaign,” added Coetzee.
“The Cheetahs are a tough side, especially in Bloemfontein, and we will need to make a vast improvement on last week’s performance to come home with a win.”
Friday’s match at the Free State Stadium kicks-off at 17:05.
DHL Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Michael van der Spuy, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Deon Fourie (Captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Tazz Fuzani, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Josh Katzen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Demetri Catrakilis.
Referee: Marius Jonker