Dobson’s underdogs not playing for fear of failure
IT has been a tough road to the Currie Cup semi-finals for Western Province and despite the underdog tag (which they don’t mind at all), the Cape side have a more positive mindset after “fighting and clawing” their way into their clash against the Blue Bulls at Loftus today.
WP’s chances at a playoff spot looked bleak in the first half of the competition after consecutive and harsh defeats to the Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs. And after their loss to the Golden Lions at Ellis Park a few weeks later, things looked even darker.
But they managed to secure wins over the Eastern Province Kings and the Sharks, and their triumphs over the Pumas, Griquas and the Boland Cavaliers in the latter part of the tournament were enough to snatch a top-four spot.
Now, WP coach John Dobson says there is plenty of enthusiasm and with the odds stacked against them, that enthusiasm is going to be vital.
“We have had about five quarter-finals, because every time if we were going to lose we were going to get knocked out. We sort of clawed and fought our way into the semis. So now it feels like we’re playing for something positive,” he said.
“We are playing for a final, we’re not playing for fear of failure. It’s a different mindset now. Looking at the bookies and looking at how the Bulls have played since they lost to the Sharks in Durban, they’ve just gotten better and better.
“Look at the similarities between their Super Rugby side and this one. Playing at Loftus and the altitude. They are playing good rugby, so we’re definitely the underdogs. And we like that.”
Dobson has also said that they are expecting a lot of contestable kicks from Nollis Marais’ side. It is something that the Bulls have done with great efficacy this season and with the inclusion of Ulrich Beyers at fullback, a big kicking game might very well be on the cards.
“We have made some tweaks to our kicking game and handling their kicking game. We’ve also prepared for rain, but that seems to be diminishing,” Dobson added.
Another factor will be the battle up front. While WP have reliable men in the engine room, the Bulls have the luxury of an almost all-Super Rugby pack. But skipper Chris van Zyl believes that won’t get Province down at all.
“Without a doubt (we can match them). I really think our pack have come a long way and I believe the guys involved can hit them back,” he said.
While the Bulls may be affected by a three-week layoff, Dobson was cautiously confident about WP’s fitness and ability to perform at altitude.
“I don’t think I would have liked three weeks off. Two weeks are just enough. I think it’s extraordinary for them to go through that and I don’t think it’s fair. It’s unlucky for the Bulls,” he added.
“I’m not worried about our fitness. In three second halves at altitude we haven’t lost. We won the one against the Bulls, we drew the one against the Lions and we won the second half against Griquas by a lot. so we’re not worried about our fitness, but we do need to be careful.”
FROM LEFT FIELD: Leolin Zas can do some serious damage while Jamba Ulengo is all kinds of trouble for the opposition.