Cape Town – Western Province could be fielding a team of Super Rugby strength in their Currie Cup match against the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday at Newlands.
Returning Springboks, hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, locks Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker, eighthman Duane Vermeulen, wing Bryan Habana, centres Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers are all available ahead of the Cheetahs clash.
“It is so good to have a bigger group to select from for a change and we can shift into Stormers mode,” Province coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday.
“I'm very happy with the energy they bring and one could see the spring in the step of the youngsters at training this morning.
“The Boks are returning at a time after we've suffered a few defeats, and that has knocked the players' confidence.”
Coetzee said it would be hard on the group of young players who had made it possible for Province to challenge for a semi-final berth to replace them with the incoming Boks.
“The youngsters have done well to give us a fighting chance of reaching the semis while the Boks were away and they'll have to realise that the Boks will have to take over from here,” said Coetzee.
“The youngsters will share the view that the best way to reach the objective of playing the semis will be to use the Boks.”
The Province mentor said it would be a challenge to select the right players for their final encounter of the league phase.
“Some of them have been a way for a while and now the challenge to get a balanced gameplan so that they can fit in,” he said.
“It is also worth looking at their individual workloads before making a selection call. I must be sure that I send fresh Boks our on to the field.”
Coetzee confirmed on Monday that Bok captain De Villiers would lead the side in the remaining games in place of Deon Fourie.
“It is normal protocol for the one who was appointed captain for the season to take over if he returns from Bok duty,” Coetzee said.
“Deon has led the side very well, considering he had a side with very limited resources.”
The 2012 strength-versus-strength Currie Cup format has proved a major success and Coetzee said none of the teams knew what their final log positions would be ahead of the weekend's final round of league fixtures.
“It is great for the competition that all the six places will only be decided when the final round of matches have been played,” he said.
“It is a must-win game for us, and that's also the way it is for the other (five) teams.” – Sapa