CAPE TOWN - Western Province coach John Dobson believes the “stress test” they endured against the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup semi-final will benefit them as they prepare for their home final against the Sharks on Saturday.
Province were without a doubt the favourites heading into the Newlands fixture at the weekend after their demolition of the Bulls one week earlier in the last league game of the competition.
That, combined with the unstoppable form they’ve shown this season, didn’t give the men from Pretoria much of a chance against the log-leaders. But until Saturday, no other team had really tested the defending champions quite like the Bulls did. In fact, no other team had come close.
The second semi of the day turned into a thriller beyond compare as the scores were tied at 32-all after a late unconverted try by the Bulls’ Dylan Sage, which took the game into extra-time after flyhalf Manie Libbok blotched his perfect performance with the boot and missed the all-important touchline conversion.
WP wing SP Marais - who contributed 30 points in his Man of the Match performance - also missed his target for the first time on the night when he tee’d up in the first half of extra-time, but he had another chance before the break and made no mistake with his second attempt to take the score to 35-32.
“That was tough. I have got absolutely no doubt (that it will help them in the final),” Dobson said. “I did say in the week we wanted to be stress-tested, but I didn’t mean quite that,” the coach quipped.
"A score of 19-12 could have been a nice stress test, not extra-time. But I think we learned a hell of a lot. Maybe from a couple of errors of selection and the kicking game, which was poor. I said in the week the Bulls would keep the ball and I think we must prevent that by linespeed or stealing the ball better from their breakdown.”
Dobson also said that his side didn’t stick to the plan in front of a crowd of just over 18 000. “Our plan was to be more direct. We tried to force it. There was a bit of pressure, which may have been my fault, we wanted to play this kind of rugby and we maybe freestyled a bit too much ... in fact I know we did,” he said.
“We would get to the 15 and bring it back into the defence so we did not get those situations where we have SP and Trokkie (Juarno Augustus) blind getting those passes away. We did not stick to the plan, certainly in terms of the territory game.
“I went onto the field at full-time and they were entirely calm. They just breathed in, breathed out, realised they had to play the territory, get the penalty and that is exactly what happened. It says a lot, and I know (captain) Chris (van Zyl) wasn’t on, about the leadership in this group.”