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Scarra Ntubeni credits soaring levels of self-belief for Western Province’s emphatic 42-6 win against the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday, and for his man-of-the-match performance.
“There’s so much belief in the camp,” the WP third-choice hooker told reporters after making an outstanding contribution to a rousing victory.
“When you say something over and over again you start to believe it and the belief is from the coaches all the way down. We started the season with one win from three games and the coaches didn’t say one negative thing – they still believed in us.
“The coaches don’t doubt us, they back us.”
Coach Allister Coetzee was forced to back a host of youngsters after a wave of injuries was compounded by a late Springbok call-up for Duane Vermeulen and Juan de Jongh.
Ntubeni made a huge statement in his first Currie Cup start, throwing an almost perfect lineout and helping to settle a Province scrum that held its own against a streetwise Bulls front row in the second half.
The junior rake may well get more plaudits for throwing his diminutive frame around in general play, where he stunned onlookers as a powerful ball-carrier and a staunch defender.
The 21-year-old hooker was one of seven Province starters under the age of 24, and this number grew to nine when injuries to scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage and winger Ederies Arendse pressed Nic Groom, 22, and Damian de Allende, 20, into service from the bench.
“Dewaldt is out for the season, he has broken his leg,” said Coetzee. “And Ederies has got a shoulder injury as well, he’s going for X-rays.”
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar will have spent most of yesterday scanning footage of the match for answers as to how his team – boasting five Springboks and current IRB Junior Player of the Year, Jan Serfontein – were beaten by a Province outfit that had just one win, against last-placed Griquas, from three matches.
“You’re making a mistake if you judge a team on paper,” said the Bulls coach. “Western Province had a group of young players with less experience than us but they were definitely hungrier than us.
“They put us under pressure, defended brilliantly and out-kicked us.
“Deon Fourie (WP captain) was outstanding at the breakdown, and when you turn over five balls at the breakdown, you’ll get a hiding from a team like this.
“Province had their backs to the wall, they knew they had to win this game, and our commitment was pathetic.”
The Blue Bulls were undoubtedly off-colour at Newlands, but Province must be credited for taking full advantage of their rivals’ lethargy to score five tries.
“After the loss against the Lions last week we looked really hard at ourselves,” said WP centre Marcel Brache. “The belief has been there since the first game, and tonight showed what can happen if we do get things right.”
While Coetzee was clearly relieved to have won a Currie Cup game at home for the first time this season, the coach was more energised by what the performance promises for the future.
“The only time we really have strength-versus-strength is (in the SA conference) at Super Rugby level,” he said, referring to a domestic championship that has been diluted by the expanded Super Rugby and Rugby Championship competitions.
“The value of the Currie Cup is to get young players developed for the Super Rugby level, and we have to use it to do that. That is what Australia don’t have, there’s no competition where they can develop their players for Super Rugby.
“I’ll be happy if we get two or three players playing Super Rugby next year, but obviously we’d like to do well (in the Currie Cup) because we really want to bring a trophy back to the Cape.”
The win boosted Province from fifth into second place on the overall standings and Coetzee will be hoping for more good news from his medical team – regarding injuries to the likes of Arendse, Tyrone Holmes (shoulder), Joe Pietersen (wrist) and Nick Koster (knee) – as he prepares the team to face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this week.