Cape Town - The four tries scored by the Sharks in their loss in Cape Town has left something for Western Province to play for in their final Currie Cup league game, but their assistant coach Dawie Snyman doesn’t believe it changes the focus of the log leaders.
WP head to Loftus to play the Blue Bulls on Saturday needing one log point to make sure of the top spot on the log that will guarantee them a home final should they get that far.
Coach John Dobson said a few weeks ago that the objective was to go to Pretoria with nothing on the game for his team, but the try scoring bonus point eked from the Newlands game by the Sharks has given the Durbanites just a glimmer of hope.
Should they beat Griquas in their final league game in Kimberley on Saturday and bank a try-scoring bonus point in the process, and WP lose to the Bulls and leave Pretoria without adding to their current full house of 25 log points from five games, then the Sharks will top the log.
Anything different to that - as in WP bank a log point or the Sharks don’t get five - will mean WP end top.
It is weighted in favour of WP and there has been a suggestion that maybe that solitary point is a good thing for the Cape team in that it will bring extra focus to the game.
But as Snyman points out, a big north/south clash in Pretoria was always going to raise the intensity levels, and then there is the small fact of it being a semi-final dress-rehearsal to boot.
“We have to get a point to make sure of top position, but I think we would have wanted to have a good game before a semi-final regardless of what was needed,” Snyman told SuperSport.com.
“Playing against the Bulls at Loftus is always a big game and we want to measure our progress and see how we can improve as a team. We will be looking for a good performance to take confidence into the semi-finals.”
There is a chance that semi-final could also be against the Bulls, so there is extra reason for WP to want to get a psychological blow in against a team that has flown a bit beneath the radar in the Currie Cup season but is regarded by Snyman as dangerous.
“The Bulls have been a long time off and they have been building towards this game for several weeks so they will be well prepared,” said the WP backline coach.
“They have had a good Currie Cup even though there hasn’t been that that much attention on them. They could have beaten the Sharks in Durban and they gave a good hiding to a strong Free State side (PRO14 strength) in Bloemfontein at the start of the competition. They lost narrowly to the Lions so they will want to prove a point at Loftus.
“John Mitchell has left them since Super Rugby but they have retained a lot of the strengths that Mitch introduced. They play with great tempo and also play with a lot of width. They also retain elements of the defensive approach that Mitch introduced. But Pote (Human) has done some good work on improving elements of their forward play. I’d say they boast a good blend of playing style and playing to their strong points and they will be difficult to beat.”
According to Snyman, WP have yet to decide on where Damian Willemse will line up at Loftus, if indeed he does, but then the versatility and sheer class of the young Springbok means it hardly matters - he should produce regardless of whether he plays flyhalf or fullback.
“Damian is a special player so it really doesn’t matter where he plays. What is nice about a guy who can play both is that if he does play fullback you can use him as a first receiver in certain situations so you don’t have to vary or adjust much.
“We haven’t made a decision yet. Obviously he has played fullback for the Boks, and he played there for us in the Currie Cup final last year and also in the game he played for us against Griquas. But in the Super Rugby season he played flyhalf for the Stormers.”
No 8 Juarno Augustus, who was a late withdrawal from the Sharks game two weeks ago because of injury, still has to be assessed before being cleared to play at Loftus, and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is unavailable, otherwise head coach Dobson has a full squad to choose from.
The team will be announced on Thursday.