Currie Cup

WP's Jantjies, Snyman accept public criticism ... but bigger picture at play

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Herschel Jantjies (Gallo Images)
Herschel Jantjies (Gallo Images)

Western Province may have come in for some public criticism this season for their style of play, but they have done enough to earn a home Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks at Newlands this weekend. 

It has been a tough season for all seven franchises that have competed in the combined Super Rugby Unlocked/Currie Cup campaign in 2020/21, and the quality of the rugby on offer has been questioned by a public that will always be expectant. 

Province, in particular, have felt the wrath of suggestions that their game has been forward heavy and one-dimensional in 2020 with not enough in the way of consistently expansive and effective running rugby. 

The fact of the matter, though, is that the season has been stop-start in nature thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. 

With matches cancelled and training sessions substituted for group Covid-19 testing, finding continuity of any kind has been incredibly challenging. 

On many levels, it is remarkable that a full season has taken place at all. 

WP have won seven, lost three and had two matches called off - both against the Sharks - to claim 2nd spot on the unique regular season Currie Cup log. 

And while it hasn't always been pretty, the Capetonians are now two wins away from silverware and giving Newlands the send-off they believe it deserves. 

Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus addressed media on Monday and while he understood the dissatisfaction that had been aimed at the quality of the Currie Cup as a whole this season, he also pleaded for understanding in attempting to explain just how challenging it has been for these sides to deliver a professional standard through the pandemic.

"It's a fair comment in terms of what the public wants … we need to make sure it's attractive and entertaining, so you want to watch it on your television," WP assistant coach Dawie Snyman explained in a virtual media briefing on Tuesday.

"But, as Rassie said, we were off for six months without playing any rugby and then to get back into it and start playing matches again after just one warm-up match was challenging.

"We would usually have three or four warm-up games to get ready for a season. Then you go into a season where almost every game is a must-win.

"I think we have grown in the competition, but every week is different.

"You have to change your team because of covid and your weekly programme has to change because of the testing. You can't scrum and maul on a Tuesday, for example, and the adjustment of changing your programme to adapt to the pandemic was a little bit different.

"After this tournament we will have a look at where we are and where we can grow as a team and individuals."

Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, meanwhile, emphasised that the squad was pleased with how they had played so far this season.  

"We've worked for this, to play in a home semi-final, and I think we've earned it," he said.

"Some people might differ and say we haven't played the brand of rugby that they wanted to see, but I think it's exactly what we wanted and we've got the result.

"Hopefully we can come out this weekend and the result can go our way with all the plans we have in place."

On the challenges of playing a full season during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the Springbok World Cup winner said the group had done well to stick to their guns. 

"It's been different and frustrating in a way, but after coming back from a serious Level 5 lockdown and then coming back to training, we went off on a different approach and it was always about learning," he said.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion about what they want from us, but we as a squad are in a perfect place and we've worked really hard.

"This Sharks game is the perfect test for us now, being a playoff match. We all know that if we don't get it right, our campaign is done, but I have to give credit to the coaches for sticking to the plan and not changing what we're trying to do."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 16:30.

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