Changes at halfback for Western Province?

Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse were the starting scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively for their thrilling semi-final win over the Blue Bulls.

Western Province vs the Golden Lions in the Currie Cup. Picture:

CAPE TOWN - Western Province coach John Dobson has a big call to make over his halfback pairing ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup Final against the Sharks at Newlands.

Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse were the starting scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively for their thrilling semi-final win over the Blue Bulls.

However, immediately after the match, Dobson mentioned the tactical kicking was “very poor” and hinted that changes would be made. Assistant coach Dawie Snyman on Monday echoed Dobson’s comments about the unsatisfactory kicking game.

One must think Dobson is seriously contemplating the thought of Josh Stander at a standoff, the 24-year-old played all the group stage matches for Province with his game management and kicking out of hand winning plaudits.

Stander led the competition, in group stages, in kicking metres and total kicks and has been instrumental in marshalling the potent attacking weapon that is the Province backline. It’s been a defining season for Stander at the union and he could be rewarded for his form.

The precocious talent that is Willemse struggled on Saturday with his game management, although not particularly poor, he failed to take control of the match in which the Blue Bulls had Province under enormous pressure with rapid defensive line speed.

With the physical Sharks pack up next, Dobson will no doubt feel Stander could be the safer option considering the magnitude of the match. Although Province have been mesmerising with the ball in hand throughout the competition, they still require the guarantee of territorial dominance against the men from Durban. Stander could be that someone to keep the heavy Sharks moving backwards.

In Willemse’s defence, the 20-year-old has played most of his recent rugby at fullback as Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus grooms him for a potential World Cup berth next year.

Willemse did showcase flashes of his plentiful offensive skillset, but these skills could be best used at fullback where he has the space to attack and use his outrageous sidestep and off-load ability.

The conundrum at flyhalf affects the rest of the backline, Dobson hinted that leaving out a Springbok is potentially heading into “dangerous territory” so this might see someone like Dillyn Leyds miss out on a starting berth.

At number nine, Province are still waiting on the medical clearance for veteran Jano Vermaark who is recovering from a thumb injury. Reserve scrumhalf Paul De Wet suffered an injury on Saturday and will miss the final.

The 22-year-old Jantjies looks set to continue as the starting scrumhalf in Vermaak’s absence.

Jantjies has had a superb season with his quick service and decision making from the base, in particular, a key strength.

Yet another Paul Roos product, he has made many take note of him of him as one for the future as South Africa’s scrumhalf cupboard looks particularly bare as things stand.

Dobson said the inclusion of Vermaark would be a major boost for the team in terms of morale, the experienced scrumhalf has been excellent in this campaign, however, his fitness is not guaranteed.

Province backline coach Dawie Snyman said they had full confidence in Jantjies to perform in the final if called upon.

“It's been a great season for Herschel and he has played his part when he's been given his chance. We have full confidence in him if he needed to do the job. Last weekend, he experienced a bit of pressure and that will definitely help him in the future. We're happy with where Herschel is‚ but it's not just about him but the guys around him to help make the right decisions."

Western Province will announce their matchday squad on Thursday.