Tue, 19 Jan 2021

It was a "no-brainer" for captain Siya Kolisi to slot straight back into the Western Province starting XV for Saturday's Currie Cup opener against the Blue Bulls at Newlands, coach John Dobson has said.

The Springbok skipper suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the Stormers' Super Rugby Unlocked win over the Pumas in Nelspruit on 27 October.

It saw him miss their subsequent wins over Griquas and the Cheetahs, while he was also not available for last weekend's cancelled match against the Sharks in Durban.

But Kolisi has recovered well and Dobson did not hesitate to bring him straight back into the starting team for this weekend's north-south derby at Newlands.

"Siya is the captain of the team, he's played much bigger games than this game. He's a physical player, a hard worker and against this big Bulls pack we're going to need physicality and Siya's one of the most physical sixes in the country, so to have him there was a no-brainer," Dobson told reporters in an online media briefing on Thursday.

Right wing Seabelo Senatla also comes back into the starting team after a long injury layoff, replacing Ruhan Nel who occupied the position in recent weeks.

Dobson said he viewed Nel more as a midfielder.

"We haven't really got the luxury like we do in a normal season where a guy is getting a SuperSport Challenge or a club game or something like that. Every player returning from injury is going to be coming in from the cold.

"For us, Ruan is an outstanding 13, he's probably our number one centre, it's a tough debate [given] how well the other two (Rikus Pretorius and Dan du Plessis) are doing... so we're going to have rotate them well."

The coach added that had no doubts over Senatla's readiness to play 80 minutes.

"With Sergeal (Petersen) out, there no debate that Seabelo is our top wing. He's like Warrick Gelant, one of the greatest professionals we've got. It's incredible what the guy brings to the team on and off the field. So, we want to get him on the field and playing.

"If we're saying the Bulls game is too big and we can't put him on, then we're wasting one of our biggest assets. Seabelo was a no-brainer, Ruan will probably start next week at Ellis Park (against the Lions) because we've worked out a rotation plan for the centres over the next few weeks. [But] Seabelo's so professional he can do 80 [minutes]."

In a further boost for the Capetonians, loosehead prop Ali Vermaak has also returned to fitness after being sidelined for an extended period.

Vermaak sustained a serious neck injury during a pre-season training session with the Stormers at the beginning of 2019.

There was doubt over whether the 31-year-old would play rugby again but he has been included on the bench for Saturday's match.

"I say this with a clear conscience, Alistair Vermaak is one of the most underrated players in South Africa. I've been working with Alistair for 10 years, I think he was unlucky not to be a Springbok around the 2017, 2018 era. He never gets beaten at the scrum, he's incredibly physical."

Kolisi, meanwhile, said he was raring to go after a second injury layoff in 2020 - the Bok captain also suffered a knee injury at the start of the Super Rugby season.

"I'm really excited. The last two weeks have really been difficult. Training by yourself and doing rehab gets very lonely. It was pretty tough but being around the guys [again] has been good. I really enjoyed being water boy two weeks ago. And now to be back playing with the guys is really exciting for me," he said.

Kolisi said he'll be looking to play as many minutes as possible against the Bulls.

"I'm not going to worry about when I'll get tired or if I'll get tired, I just want to get on and get involved. I just want to give my best, empty the tank and see how it goes."

Saturday's clash kicks off at 19:00.


Western Province

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Substitutes (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Kwenzo Blose, 19 Neethling Fouche, 20 David Meihuizen, 21 Chris van Zyl, 22 Jaco Coetzee, 23 Marcel Theunissen, 24 Godlen Masimla, 25 Tim Swiel, 26 Ruhan Nel

Blue Bulls

15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen

Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren

Source: News24

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