Johannesburg - Saturday’s win in Johannesburg was a significant step for Western Province in their quest to retain the Currie Cup, but coach John Dobson doesn’t believe his men have seen the last of the Lions.
WP won 65-38 and you’d expect from that scoreline that the beaten team was completely outplayed, but while Province were significantly better than the hosts and scored nine tries to five, Dobson was impressed enough with the Lions’ dangerous attacking game to consider them a threat, according to the supersport.com website.
“The Currie Cup is like a mosquito that just keeps buzzing in that you just can’t kill it off and I think we are going to have a great finish to the competition this year, where I expect to be a real threat,” said Dobson.
“They are a young team playing a great style of rugby and they will definitely be there (in the battle to determine the ultimate winner). We expect to see them again.”
Dobson said his team played according to the plan and executed that plan perfectly, but he was also honest about the luck his team enjoyed.
Indeed, in many ways the match was similar to the Super Rugby game between the Lions and Stormers in Johannesburg earlier this year, only with the teams trading roles.
Back in April the Cape side had quite a bit of the game but everything went freakily well for the Lions from the kick-off, with all the 50/50 bouncing balls just sitting up perfectly and sticking, and this time it was WP who just had everything work perfectly for them.
“We did execute our plan and I am obviously pleased with that but having said that there were several turning points in the first half and 14 point swings that took the pressure off us and mounted the pressure on what is a young Lions team. There were a couple of opportunities we took that we wouldn’t have on another day,” he said.
“As I said before the game, the Lions have several steppers and they are an exciting team. Even when we were well ahead we were wary of them as they are a side that believes they can come back from anywhere. There was a stage in the second half when I had to ask our captain Chris van Zyl to re-set our game as the Lions were coming back strongly at us.
“We’d always targeted the last 15 minutes as a time we’d have to be up for a big challenge from them and thankfully the re-set worked and the score over the last quarter of an hour was 14 points each. We were quite pleased with that. Obviously we weren’t completely pleased with our defence and we fell off some tackles, but the Lions are the sort of attacking team that will score four tries or more in most of their games.”
WP now face two successive home games against Griquas and the Sharks that could secure them top spot with a game still to play if they win both with a bonus point.
What will be interesting to see for the selection to the Griquas game on Saturday is whether Dobson will be prepared to mix and match his selection a bit in a quest to give fringe players a game opportunity.
With respect to Griquas, the side from Kimberley is less of a threat than the Lions, Sharks or Bulls, and there is benefit to be had from having more than just the starting group ready for the playoff phase of the competition.
According to Dobson, the lack of opportunity to grow depth is one of the down sides of the single round competition.
“For us bigger unions who are using the Currie Cup to grow depth in preparation for Super Rugby the single round does make it tricky as you are under pressure from the start,” said the Province coach.
“For instance, with the pressure on we might start with Jano Vermaak at scrumhalf in all the games instead of giving a starting opportunity to the likes of Paul de Wet or Hershel Jantjies. Before, when the competition was played over a double round, we had the chance to expose more players to this level of competition.”