CRAVEN WEEK

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE DE BRUYN

WESTERN PROV­INCE’S tal­ented backs hope to cap­i­talise on their for­wards’ dom­i­nance at Craven Week. The an­nual se­nior school­boy rugby show­piece be­gins in Welkom on Mon­day, with WP in ac­tion against an in­form Golden Lions (kick-off 1pm).

Head coach Chris Oc­to­ber, in charge of the team for a sec­ond year in a row, says his side will look to dom­i­nate up front.

“Games are won in the tight-for­ward ex­changes,” Oc­to­ber said. “We need to per­form our pri­mary roles be­fore we can think about an ex­pan­sive game plan. I have full con­fi­dence in our pack of for­wards to lay the foun­da­tion and open up space for our backs to cap­i­talise on.

“But for this to hap­pen we need to be dis­ci­plined in our struc­tures. By that I mean we must be solid in our scrum­ming, sharp in our li­ne­outs, ag­gres­sive in the rucks and mauls and quick to the break­downs. We get these pri­mary func­tions right and half the bat­tle is won.”

Oc­to­ber wants his charges to ex­press them­selves when the right op­por­tu­ni­ties present them­selves.

“This is a tal­ented bunch of play­ers who, given the op­por­tu­ni­ties, will cre­ate some­thing spe­cial. Some­times sit­u­a­tions arise when the player with the ball is on his own, and is given the chance to make some­thing hap­pen for him­self and the team. But rugby will al­ways be a team game; we need to be to­gether as a unit to come out on top.

“And I have full con­fi­dence we have the squad to make good things hap­pen at Craven Week.”

Hav­ing en­joyed a suc­cess­ful preCraven Week build-up with wins over East­ern Prov­ince (48-29) and SWD (367) in a four-team coastal warm-up event, the team left on Wed­nes­day for a train­ing camp in Bloemfontein where they will be based at Grey Col­lege be­fore head­ing to Welkom.

Oc­to­ber said he was happy with the im­prove­ment shown in the win over SWD.

“It was the first time the team had played com­pet­i­tively. We played as in­di­vid­u­als in the win over East­ern Prov­ince but gelled as a unit in the sec­ond game where the boys looked pretty sharp in all ar­eas of the game,” he added.

“It pre­sented me with a clearer pic­ture in terms of my start­ing XV for our first match of Craven Week against the Golden Lions. But there are still chances avail­able to one or two guys in cer­tain po­si­tions.”

Each mem­ber of the WP squad is guar­an­teed one full game.

WP face an acid test in the game against a Lions side that scalped the Blue Bulls (18-3), Leop­ards (24-13) and Valke (38-25) dur­ing their Bondedag pre-Craven Week build-up.

But Oc­to­ber has done his home­work and is con­fi­dent his side has the qual­i­ties to come out on top.

A good start for Prov­ince may well see them take on Free State in the show­piece game – pro­vided they win their mid­dle game against an as-yetun­known op­po­nent.

Prov­ince are the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons af­ter scor­ing a last-gasp win over Free State in the main game last year. Oc­to­ber said that win had been the high­light of his coach­ing ca­reer so far.

“We snatched vic­tory at the death when full­back Craig Barry crashed over the line. We also had good wins over East­ern Prov­ince and the Golden Lions; the lat­ter saw us build­ing up a use­ful lead be­fore they came back strongly at us.”

WP’s all-con­quer­ing per­for­mance last year re­sulted in Oc­to­ber be­ing ap­pointed the SA Schools coach. He has also coached the SA High Per­for­mance team and been in­volved with the SA Un­der-16 team. Oc­to­ber, who teaches at St An­drews High School in Elsies River, is pretty con­fi­dent his charges can re­peat the feat, be­gin­ning with the Lions.

“I know for sure they have a strong pack, the ma­jor­ity com­ing from Mon­u­ment High. I know their coach Gol­lie Gouws well; he was my as­sis­tant with the SA schools team.

“But I can tell you we have a gifted pack ready to front up to any chal­lengers, and our backs are an ex­cit­ing bunch that can score from any lit­tle mis­take. That’s what we are all about, tak­ing con­trol of the game up front first and then let­ting our backs loose whilst never for­get­ting to keep our struc­tures in place.”

Oc­to­ber said em­pha­sis on per­for­mance was based on teamwork.

“Look, we have some out­stand­ing in­di­vid­u­als in the side, but we must al­ways play as one if we are to be suc­cess­ful. If we play to our struc­tures, those play­ers who stand out will end up com­ing through. And it is also equally im­por­tant to per­form with dig­nity both on and off the field of play. That is the WP way of do­ing busi­ness.”

Prov­ince play­ers who could push for SA Schools caps are full­back Craig Berry (back from last year), pow­er­fully-built, hard-run­ning in­side cen­tre Kobus van Wyk, lock Braam Steyn (as­tute rugby brain) and loose­head Stephen Kit­shoff (big, strong and me­nac­ing in his pri­mary role and never shy with big hits in open play).

GALLO IM­AGES

FORM PLAYER: Paarl Gym cen­tre Kobus van Wyk has proved a pro­lific tryscorer and will have an ex­cel­lent chance of mak­ing the SA Schools team at the end of next week’s tour­na­ment.

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