The unglamorous surrounds of the old Hoffe Park in Kimberley will be the scene of Damian Willemse’s last-ditch bid to make the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad.
Willemse, who turned just 21 in May, has been sidelined by a knee injury since June, which saw him miss the Rugby Championship campaign.
Normally a flyhalf, he has been groomed by Bok coach Rassie Erasmus to be the back-up fullback to Willie le Roux in the national team, but things haven’t quite worked out for him on the injury front.
But there is no doubt about his talent, and the former SA Under-20 playmaker will get his opportunity to show Erasmus that he can be a point of difference when he comes off the bench for Province against Griquas in Kimberley on Friday (7pm kickoff).
WP coach John Dobson said recently that Willemse’s future lays in the No 10 jersey as opposed to No 15, so it will be interesting to see how he is utilised on Friday.
It is somewhat surprising that he hasn’t been given a start, though, with SP Marais also returning from injury and slotting straight in at fullback, after Dillyn Leyds was called up to the Bok squad.
Two other WP stalwarts, Scarra Ntubeni and Wilco Louw, is also in Pretoria for the Argentina Test, so Chad Solomon and Carlu Sadie will start in the front row.
Young lock Salmaan Moerat makes a welcome return to the No 4 jersey, with JD Schickerling moving back to the loose trio in place of Siya Kolisi.
While Griquas top the Currie Cup log with 15 points, the fourth-placed WP (12 points) must emerge victorious to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
“We know that we will have to work incredibly hard if we are going to get the result we want in Kimberley, so there will certainly be no lack of motivation,” Dobson said on Wednesday.
“We have lost a few good players, but we also have some very talented players coming back, so we are looking forward to seeing what they can do up there.”
Western Province Team
15 SP Marais, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Corné Fourie.
Bench: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouché, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Damian Willemse, 23 Edwill van der Merwe.