- Former Stormer Oli Kebble returns to Cape Town with Glasgow Warriors keen on proving a point.
- The 29-year-old SA-born Scottish international had to play in the shadows of his previous team-mates, who are now key Springboks before moving to Scotland.
- But his Warriors coach Danny Wilson is more than confident he’ll be up for the challenge.
Oli Kebble returns to his former hunting ground as a man on a mission.
That’s the assurance given by his Glasgow Warriors head coach, Danny Wilson, ahead of the Scottish club’s United Rugby Championship clash with the Stormers on Friday at the Cape Town Stadium.
During a relatively unfulfilling five-year stint at the Stormers, the 29-year-old loosehead had to play in the shadows of his former Junior Springbok team-mate Steven Kitshoff.
Kitshoff’s departure for Bordeaux back in late 2015 allowed Kebble to stake his claim, but the presence of other wily technicians as JC Janse van Rensburg and Ali Vermaak as well as his own struggles with injuries meant he couldn’t take advantage.
Once the affectionately nicknamed “Spicy Plum” was slated for a return to South Africa in 2017, Kebble packed his bags for Scotland’s largest city.
Now an 11-Test Scottish international, he has a point to prove against Springbok opponents who were above him in the Stormers’ pecking order.
“Oli’s extremely excited and motivated to essentially come ‘home’. He’s really keen to prove himself at that level, particularly against this opposition,” Wilson said on Thursday after selecting Kebble to start in the No 1 jersey.
“He made that very clear to me in the build-up to the week.”
More importantly, Kebble will play a notable role in imbuing his team-mates with some local knowledge in a match that could prove crucial in the race for the play-offs.
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Nama Xaba, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Warrick Gelant
15 Ollie Smith, 14 Josh McKay, 13 Sione Tuipulotu, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Kyle Steyn, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 Ali Price (captain), 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Johnny Matthews, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Thomas Gordon, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Cole Forbes
“Oli has obviously a reasonably good knowledge of this team and the individuals, so we’ve spoken quite openly about that,” said Wilson.
“It’s another small battle that will have a huge bearing on the result.”
Wilson is under no illusions, however, that his troops will have their hands full against Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, who will be complemented by enduring veterans in Vermaak and Brok Harris.
Kebble once had Frans Malherbe as front-row partner. (Getty Images)
“Scrum time is going to be a challenge with those two experienced front-rowers present. It’s a good pack of forwards we’re facing, so we’re very aware.
“The Stormers have paid a fair amount of attention to our scrum via the referee, for whatever reason, so there’s obviously a fair bearing from them on the set-piece.
“We’ve got two very experienced props ourselves in Oli and Zander (Fagerson). They’re quality players too.”
Kick-off is at 18:30 on Friday.