Western Province coach John Dobson has become renowned in local rugby circles for his honesty and was at it again after announcing his team for Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal against the Blue Bulls at Newlands.
Looking visibly pained by the thought, the Streeptruie mentor admitted it was “horrible” to leave out flyhalf Josh Stander from the starting line-up.
The 24-year-old pivot was pressed into action at Loftus last week after Dillyn Leyds withdrew at the eleventh hour – with initial No 10 Damian Willemse shifting to fullback – and delivered a fine performance.
But the influential Leyds is back, meaning there’s no place for Stander.
“Yeah, that was a tough one, a horrible one,” said Dobson.
At least there’s perfectly justifiable reason for Province to back the gifted Willemse.
“Damian’s a Springbok. Last year we played him in the playoffs at 15 but he’s evolved a lot with his Super Rugby experience. His kicking game has come on a lot,” said the Province coach.
“We’ve been anxious throughout. We took a policy that we would back our Springboks and I think when you start deciding that your Springboks aren’t good enough for your team, then you’re getting into very tricky areas in terms of player motivation and consistency.”
National coach Rassie Erasmus will certainly be grateful for that policy.
“It wasn’t a hard decision, just a horrible decision in feeling bad for Josh,” said Dobson.
Western Province: Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Dan Kriel, SP Marais, Damian Willemse, Herschel Jantjies, Juarno Augustus, Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (c), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Ali Vermaak. Bench: Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Michael Kumbirai, Salmaan Moerat, Jaco Coetzee, Paul de Wet, Josh Stander, JJ Engelbrecht.