Western Province must neutralise Pumas flank Marnus Schoeman in the Vodacom Cup final at Newlands on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Province went through the league phase of the competition unbeaten, before beating the Leopards XV 47-22 in the quarter-finals and the Blue Bulls 10-6 in the semi-finals. In contrast, the Pumas lost twice in the round-robin phase, before upsetting Griquas 28-14 in Kimberley and the unbeaten Golden Lions 43-20 at Ellis Park.
While WP will go into the final as favourites, they should not underestimate the Pumas.
Schoeman could be the key man for the visitors. He has played an instrumental role off the bench throughout their campaign, with his 34-minute Man of the Match performance against the Lions last weekend earning him a place in coach MJ Mentz's starting lineup. His work at the breakdown won a number of penalties for the team from Mpumalanga and flyhalf JC Roos, the competition's top point-scorer, made the Lions pay.
Province's semi-final victory over the Bulls was a laboured one and they will have to deliver an improved all-round performance to beat the confident Pumas. However, WP will not lack motivation having suffered a 13-8 defeat to the Pumas in last year’s quarter-final in Nelspruit.
There are two personnel and four positional changes to WP's starting XV, with William Ndayara replacing EW Viljoen on the right wing, and Justin Benn starting at openside flank in place of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who has been drafted onto the Stormers bench. Jean-Luc du Plessis shifts from flyhalf to fullback, Robert du Preez slots into the No 10 position, with Jaco Taute taking over at inside centre and Pat Howard starting in his preferred position of outside centre.
The Pumas have made three changes, with Schoeman taking Lambert Groenewald's No 6 jersey, Wilmaure Louw starting at outside centre, and Jerome Pretorius shifting to the left wing. Sevens specialist Rosco Speckman is on the bench.
Western Province – 15 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 14 William Ndayara, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Tshotsho Mbovane, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Rayn Smid, 7 Justin Benn, 6 Tapiwa Tsomondo, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Michael Willemse (c), 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Charlie van Jaarsveld, 17 Deacon Chowles, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Luke van der Smit, 20 Justin Phillips, 21 Kyle Lombard, 22 Matt Turner.
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Bernardo Botha, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Jerome Pretorius, 10 JC Roos, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 De-Jay Terblanche, 2 Jacques Momberg, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Subs: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Simon Westraadt, 18 Eduan van der Walt, 19 Brian Shabangu, 20 Johan Herbst, 21 Justin van Staden, 22 Rosco Speckman.
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Francois Pretorius
TMO: Deon van Blommestein