VIDEO: Province keen on 'underdog' tag in Currie Cup opener
SPOTLIGHT: Western Province assistant coach Rito Hlungwani revealed the major challenges his team face ahead of the Currie Cup opening round.
WP travel to Pretoria to face the defending-champion Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Cape Town side will be regarded as favourites, given the Bulls have sent a 28-man squad to Italy for the inaugural Rainbow Cup Final against Benneton.
However, while a Province win is certainly on the cards, Hlungwani admitted a trip to Loftus is never easy – irrespective of the Bulls’ line-up.
The assistant coach insisted it will even more challenging given his side’s absentees due to international call-ups and injuries.
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“We are all aware that the Bulls are in Italy,” Hlugnwani said, adding: “However, if you look at our squad we are also sitting with 28 players who are not available.
“Some of them are on Springboks duty, some have injuries or a bit of an illness.
“So this fixtures is really going to a good test for our depth.”
Province’s set-piece and solid pack have been a vital attacking weapon throughout the Rainbow Cup.
However, it has taken a mammoth knock ahead of their Currie Cup campaign.
“We are without Salmaan Moerat [neck] and JD Shickerling [ankle], who are both injured.
“Marin Orie has been called up to the Springboks.
“From a lock point of view, it is a big challenge [for WP].
“David Meihuizen had some good games during the Rainbow Cup and will play a vital role this weekend.”
He added: “In terms of hooker, Bongie [Mbonambie] and Scarra [Ntubeni] are with Boks, Andre-Huge [Venter], who is our third choice is currently with the Junior Springboks, while Chad Solomon is injured.
“However, we have to adapt and we have some good talent here in the Western Cape.
“JJ [Jean-Jacques Kotzé] from Maties played really well and then there is Jason Alexander, who has played really well at UWC.
“We have also been looking at prop Sazi [Sandie], who played hooker in high school and I’m sure these three guys will step up,”
Hlungwani also delivered some good news, revealing that Juarno Augustus could be up for selection next soon.
Moerat will undergo another scan this week and will hopefully be available next week.
WP team will be named on Friday.