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).
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.