Dobson: WP to strengthen club roots

John Dobson says the Currie Cup will allow DHL Western Province to develop a pathway for club rugby players after naming three semi-pros to face the Vodacom Bulls.

The world’s oldest domestic rugby competition kicks off this week, with Province’s first fixture a north-south clash against the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on Sunday.

Dobson on Friday named a relatively experienced side for the match, captained by Willie Engelbrecht and including Vodacom URC regulars Wandisile Simelane, Courtnall Skosan, Jean-Luc du Plessis and Lizo Gqoboka.

However, in replacement loosehead prop Vernon Matongo, scrumhalf Labib Kannemeyer and loose forward CJ Velleman, Dobson has also given opportunities for a few club standouts to put up their hands.

“It’s very important, especially with us having done an equity deal,” Dobson explained. “There is a danger that there could be a separation between professional and amateur.

“That’s not something we want. We are incredibly proud of the success of the teams at the Grant Khomo Week and Craven Week. We are proud of our club system.

“In a funny way, it’s not enough. Labib is great and he’s played well for SK Walmers in a tough season. As the Currie Cup goes along, some of the more established guys will get more involved with the URC’s pre-season.

“It’s a balancing act, because we want to respect the Currie Cup. We all want it to stay alive. It’s very important in the context of what we’ve done this year with the Stormers equity deal that we still show a clear pathway for the club players.

“We could see more as the competition goes along.”

It is Velleman’s name that will have long-time followers of domestic rugby interested, as the flanker returns to Currie Cup action after the long absence.

A breakthrough star at the Southern Kings during the Eastern Cape side’s stint in Super Rugby, Velleman’s career has been hampered by injuries.

The 29-year-old has mixed teaching with playing club rugby in Cape Town’s northern suburbs and with both WP and the DHL Stormers in need of an openside flanker, he could use the Currie Cup to push to get back to the top flight.

“CJ is another club rugby player, who played for NTK in Parow. That takes us up to three,” Dobson said.

“I remember there was a graphic from Super Rugby that I saw this week, which showed David Pocock, Michael Hooper and then Velleman as the top three stealers in the one season.

“CJ has had a few ACL injuries and two really bad injuries in his shoulder. So we actually don’t know what we’ve got, but there is so much potential in him. Technically, he is up there with Deon in terms of technique. Like a lot of good opensides, he has no respect for his own body.

“He has been training with us as much as he could over the last while. We have been working quite hard with rehabbing him.”

Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

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