Dobson: 'Horrible' decision to leave out Stander

Josh Stander (Gallo)
Josh Stander (Gallo)

Cape Town - In a Currie Cup semi-final, there can be no place for sympathetic team selection. 

That much was made clear on Thursday when Western Province coach John Dobson dropped flyhalf Josh Stander to the bench to accommodate Damian Willemse at flyhalf for Saturday's knockout clash against the Blue Bulls at Newlands. 

It was a decision that Dobson had made last weekend ahead of his side's trip to Loftus against the same opposition, but a late calf injury to Dillyn Leyds meant that Stander was drafted back into the No 10 jersey as Willemse moved to fullback. 

The result was another superb performance from the 24-year-old Stander in conditions treacherous enough to see the game stopped at half-time. 

By then, Stander had dictated play perfectly to give WP a 34-7 lead that could have become a lot more had the contest not been stopped as the rain, thunder and lightning all wreaked havoc. 

With Willemse on Springbok duty for most of the international season, Stander has been Dobson's general and he has not disappointed. 

But with a second Currie Cup title in as many years now within touching distance, 'Dobbo' has had to make a tough call.

"It's a horrible one ... a tough one," the coach said of his call to drop Stander to the bench.

"But Damian is a Springbok and I think he has evolved a lot with his Super Rugby experience. His kicking game has come a long way.

"We've been anxious throughout. We took a policy that we would back our Springboks and I think when you start deciding that your Springboks aren't good enough for your team, then you're getting into very tricky areas in terms of player motivation and consistency.

"It wasn't a hard decision, just a horrible decision in feeling bad for Josh."

Leyds, meanwhile, is also a player that Dobson rates incredibly highly, saying that he "could not" leave him out.

The plan on Saturday, it seems, is a simple one. 

Dobson wants Province to keep playing the style of rugby that has seen them dominant throughout the 2018 tournament. He will not revert to playing 'finals rugby', because that would dilute what his side has achieved throughout the season so far. 

Province have been miles ahead of their opposition in their six round-robin matches, collecting maximum points and scoring 38 tries along the way at an average of more than 6 per game. 

They are overwhelming favourites against the Blue Bulls, and Dobson is expecting his main man to play a big role.

"Our challenge is to get the ball to Damian and let him run onto it with some go-forward," he said.

"With those feet, his decision making and his pass ... it's devastating."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:00.

Teams:

Western Province

15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Josh Stander, 23 JJ Engelbrecht

Blue Bulls

15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Duncan Matthews, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Hendre Stassen, 3 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Frans van Wyk, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Franco Naude

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