Province wary of motivated Boland
WESTERN PROVINCE are deter mined to prevail over their regional rivals when they slip-slide into action against the Boland Cavaliers in difficult conditions at Boland Stadium this afternoon.
“From what I’ve been told, Boland’s field is as bad as it was last year,” said WP assistant coach Robbie Fleck earlier in the week.
Desperately chasing a topfour finish during the latter stages of their 2008 campaign, Province required nine log points from their last two matches to book their place in the playoffs.
The first of those two matches took place on a rainsoaked Boland pitch that, due to a lack of drainage, had been reduced to a quagmire that many pundits deemed unsuitable for rugby.
The visitors struggled to find any purchase against a Cavaliers team obviously aware of their opponents’ tryscoring objectives, and the hooped jerseys were soon stuck in the mud, fighting for a win against a side with little to lose.
WP ultimately spluttered to a 23-7 victory in terrible conditions, and their failure to secure the bonus point in either of their final two matches ultimately saw them fall short of the semi-finals by a bonus point and a points-difference margin of 20 points.
What made the bitter taste of defeat unpalatable for the visitors was the apparent glee with which the Cavaliers fought to limit the score margin, rather than win the contest.
Despite their financial woes, Boland have made a habit of repeatedly tripping up their more popular neighbours.
Province claimed both encounters against the Cavaliers last season, but in the four Currie Cup clashes preceding their 2008 series, Boland won both of the tightly-contested matches played in Wellington.
“Going to Wellington has been a bit of a banana peel over the years and you cannot take them lightly,” WP coach Allister Coetzee cautioned earlier this week.
“It doesn’t matter how many players are injured in that Boland side, whoever puts on the jersey will come out and show their neighbours that they’re ready for Super 14.
“We know that those players want to prove to (Stor mers coach) Rassie Erasmus that they can play at Super 14 level, and playing against Province… it will make a smaller union’s year if they get one up against us.”
The Cavaliers have been beset by injuries, losing a pair of team captains in hooker Conrad Burke and centre Dewey Swartbooi, among a host of others players.
By comparison, Coetzee has welcomed back fit-again lock Adriaan Fondse who bumps Lions import Anton van Zyl to the bench in what the coach hopes will be another progressive step forward for an emerging WP pack.
Given the expected conditions, Province know that they have to assert themselves up front. With the likes of Fondse controlling the setpieces, the stage will be set for Coetzee’s charges to patiently gather momentum and side-step their bogey team.
IN AND OUT: Adriaan Vondse (right) replaces Anton van Zyl (left) for today’s match.