Western Province coach Allister Coetzee believes that his team's consistent form in recent seasons means that every team they face in the Currie Cup will be hungry to knock them off their perch.
Although they have not won any silverware for the last ten years the Stormers have hosted consecutive Super Rugby semifinals and Western Province finished as runners-up in last year's Currie Cup, which Coetzee believes makes them a big scalp for any team they face in the Currie Cup this season.
The Western Province coach explained: "I think we have got a big target on our backs, we have been the leading franchise in South Africa so every team will be out there to topple us. That has always been the case with Province, whoever plays Province that is their biggest game for the season."
Coetzee faces the tough task of trying to maintain the continuity and momentum that the union has had recently while also looking to expand their depth by giving some promising youngsters an opportunity to develop.
He said: "This year's Super Rugby campaign was based on last year's success in the Currie Cup and one would like to have the same approach this year. But we have also got to realise that there are a lot of youngsters that must gain experience and become the middle tier players at this union.
"We have got a good quality group of top tier players and these youngsters have got an opportunity to develop in their respective positions and gain the necessary experience to be able to make an impact in Super Rugby," he added.
Coetzee's squad was hit hard by injury towards the end of the Super Rugby campaign, and with a host of senior players unavailable for the Currie Cup due to Springbok duty the Western Province coach will find out quite soon which of the youngsters he can rely on this season.
With players such as Duane Vermeulen, Dewaldt Duvenage, Rynhardt Elstadt, Pieter Louw, Lionel Cronje and Kurt Coleman ruled out for the season opener against Griquas at Newlands this weekend it will be very interesting to see which players are included in the starting line-up.
Coetzee knows that Griquas will provide a stern test for his charges, but it is a challenge that he is looking forward to.
"They are a good side and they get all of their players back from the Cheetahs franchise, guys like Riaan Viljoen and Barry Geel. So it is a great opener for us. It is a great test to play against a quality side like Griquas, it will show us exactly how far we are and where we stand," he said.
Coetzee will have the front row that played in the Super Rugby semifinal against the Crusaders available this weekend, and there is depth in the forward pack as players like De Kock Steenkamp and Adriaan Fondse look to make their mark but all eyes will be on what is sure to be a youthful backline.
Coetzee is excited about seeing some of the enthusiastic young players at his disposal make the step up on Saturday.
He commented: "I'm excited to see Johann Sadie and Tim Whitehead in the midfield and around those two you have got a few other youngsters who have been promising in Under-20 rugby for the last two years now.
"Guys like Burton Claasens, Michael van der Spuy, Danie Poolman and JJ Engelbrecht on the wing. I have called up [SA Sevens player] Steven Hunt who has trained with us and there is Conrad Jantjes at the back so there is a lot of excitement.
"Our preparations have gone well, we have got to make sure that what we have trained we get right and I have got no doubt that there will be hunger and a lot of enthusiasm out there on Saturday," added the Western Province coach.
By Michael de Vries
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