Prov­ince wary of mo­ti­vated Boland

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ZELIM NEL

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.

JEF­FREY ABRA­HAMS

IN AND OUT: Adri­aan Vondse (right) re­places An­ton van Zyl (left) for to­day’s match.

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