Province have much to do to be Cup contenders
WESTERN Province’s 30-17 defeat to the Free State Cheetahs shouldn’t give coach John Dobson too many sleepless nights, but it did reveal a few areas that could do with some improvement.
The Cheetahs secured their second victory in as many weeks when they bagged the 30-17 win over Province in Bloemfontein on Sunday, and it’s fair to say they were the favourites going into the match. So WP’s defeat probably can’t be regarded as an early red flag – and that’s not only because the Cheetahs were the more settled team and enjoyed a very favourable home ground advantage.
Dobson fielded a ‘hybrid’ team of SuperSport Rugby Challenge players and Super Rugby experience.
Fullback SP Marais, wing Seabelo Senatla, loose forwards Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Kobus van Dyk, tighthead prop Wilco Louw, captain and lock Chris van Zyl and hooker Ramone Samuels all brought significant Super experience, while Challenge players centre Michael Hazner, wing Bjorn Basson, flyhalves Kurt Coleman and Brandon Thomson and scrumhalves Justin Phillips and Godlen Masimla added to the mix.
There’s probably not too much to worry about if you consider WP went up against a Cheetahs Super Rugby outfit (playing at home – where they haven’t lost since 2015), but nonetheless, Province will have to step up in certain departments if they want to pull off a confidence-boosting win over the Pumas.
Province dominated territory and possession in the first half, but failed to make it count. They went into the break trailing 17-11, as the Cheetahs had converted their few chances into points. But Province’s defence was not up to standard, and let in a few soft Cheetahs tries, while the Cheetahs put massive pressure on the opposition with their line speed.
Another area that Province just wasn’t good enough in was the lineout.
The Cheetahs snatched a number of Province’s balls at the set-piece, and it’s certainly a division that should be given attention to, as the lineouts were also a bit of a problem in the Stormers camp at certain stages of the Super Rugby competition.
It’s still early days and it was WP’s first Currie Cup game of the season (they had a bye in round one). The team is also still trying out their combinations while taking into account the management of players who have played a lot of rugby this season.
But one player I’d like to see feature more this season is Masimla. The other No 9, Phillips, who scored a fine try as he showed great body positioning and quick thinking to get the ball over the line on Sunday, has gained a bit of Super Rugby experience this season. And Masimla is one who should get more opportunities to show his devastating ability around the fringes, and his overall skill.
In midfield WP doesn’t have too many options currently, with Dan Du Plessis on the injury list and Springbok centre Juan de Jongh and Scottish international Huw Jones’ departure, while Super Rugby regular EW Viljoen and Damian de Allende’s need to be carefully managed in terms of workload.
So I guess not much can be said about someone like Dan Kriel’s performance.
Again, it’s still early days. And I guess there is still room for trial and error.
But the sooner Province improve and get their perfect mix, be it in terms of fixing areas that need fixing or finding the right combinations, the better.
ONE TO WATCH: Godlen Masimla should be given more opportunities to show his ability.