Currie Cup

Luke Watson ready to face Loftus attack

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Apart from the traditional north-south rivalry which will play itself out in Saturday’s Currie Cup Western Province-Blue Bulls clash, the Luke Watson reception at Loftus Versfeld will make for an interesting sideshow.

And in the run-up to the Currie Cup clash against the Blue Bulls, Watson, the Province captain, has been constantly reminded by his teammates that he’ll be facing a hostile reception at Loftus.

“The guys (WP players) say it is Luke’s home game this week! Ah man, I don’t take things too personally,” said Watson.

“For me, it is about what happens between the four white lines. It is honestly not about me or the hype around that.”

Watson’s well-documented comments about vomiting on the Springbok jersey and Afrikaners in South African rugby raised the ire of the Loftus fans when he turned out for the Stormers against the Bulls in a Super Rugby encounter in March.

He was booed throughout the match and at one time after a touchline scuffle with Bulls wing Gerhard van den Heever shortly before halftime he tactlessly egged on the fans to step up the booing intensity.

Scores of placards and banners around the Pretoria stadium told a story of how intensely people despised his comments.

One poster read: Welcome to Loftus, home of 50 000 Dutchmen. But the Loftus fortress holds no fears for Watson.

“We want to go there and have a fantastic performance and God will, we come away with a victory,” said Watson.

“That’s the only thing that matters to me.”

When Watson was asked to recall the Loftus booing experience in March, he replied: “I thought that they were booing the Bulls and not me!”

Watson and his team mates will very likely get a taste of things to come when they do their pre-match warm-up drills on the field, as was the case last time out.

Although the Stormers tasted defeat (14-10) in March Watson was a stand-out performer for the Cape franchise and on Saturday he’ll be hoping, more so because he’ll captain Province, for a repeat display.

Province, unlike the Blue Bulls, have no great injury concerns after their Sharks fixture at Newlands last week although fullback Joe Pietersen who sustained a leg injury, may not be fit to make the trip to Loftus.

As a result Province have called up Springbok Sevens star Gio Aplon to join in their training sessions this week. Aplon did not travel with the national Sevens squad which flew out on Monday to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for the World Games.

Aplon’s return may be a good omen because he was in the Province side that last beat the Bulls in 2006.

In that season Aplon excelled in the fullback berth, helping Province to win both at home and at Loftus.

The other enforced change will be at scrumhalf where Ricky Januarie has been called up for the Springbok TriNations squad.

Province will not be too unhappy with his call-up because Januarie’s understudy Dewald Duvenage has been in far better form.

The rest of the Province team which ground out a comprehensive win over the Sharks is likely to be retained although the outside centre Juan de Jongh who joined the fray in the second half as a substitute will warrant serious consideration for inclusion in the run-on XV.

Flyhalf Willem de Waal could be an option at fullback if Pietersen is declared unfit and Peter Grant could step into the pivot berth.

De Jongh, who earlier this year was a member of the national Sevens squad, made a good impression on Province coach Allister Coetzee at Newlands on Saturday.

“Juan de Jongh stood his ground every time he touched the ball,” said Coetzee.

“He made a helluva impact at the contact plays.

“Some people will argue that he is on the small side but he was so effective when he carried the ball.”

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