Western Province coach John Dobson says they’ve had to be brave in handing a debut to Rikus Pretorius against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The centre will make his first start for Province in their decisive clash with the Cheetahs in the final round of the Currie Cup.
Pretorius, a hard runner in midfield, has played for the Province U21 side this year. He was also vice-captain of the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby U20 Championships in Argentina.
He comes in for Dan Kriel, who is struggling with an injury he picked up in the loss against Griquas and hasn’t been able to train this week.
Dobson said that with Springbok Damian de Allende moving to Japan after the World Cup, Province need to grow their young centres ahead of next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
‘There is a little bit of a balancing act,’ Dobson said. ‘The reality is that in next year’s Super Rugby, our centre stocks aren’t going to be what they were, with Damian [de Allende] gone. At some stage we are going to have to be brave.
‘We are going to ask this kid to play Super Rugby next year and there is a possibility this could be our last game of the season. I also think he deserves it on merit, we have used the same centres for the whole season. We haven’t really created any opportunities for him, Matt Moore or Cornel Smit. We just have to be brave with this one.’
Pretorius will be reunited with Damian Willemse, who he played alongside with the Junior Springboks.
Dobson added that he is excited by what the combination could offer.
‘He was an outstanding schoolboy, I think he was headboy of Grey College,’ Dobson said. ‘He was outstanding for the SA U20’s this year in the Junior World Championships. If anything we have probably left this a little bit late. He has been doing really well for our U21s. We need to build for the future.
‘I am excited by him. He is big and plays very flat. He is very physical, so we are quite excited about his one. It is maybe a week or two too late but we will see what he can do.’
Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images