CAPE TOWN – Western Province coach John Dobson says their tour to France gave them a massive chance to assess their depth as they prepare to head into the single-round Currie Cup competition.
Province kicked off their two-match tour with a massive win over Narbonne, and while they weren’t able to get the same kind of result against a star-studded Montpellier team, it was an experience that served them well for more than just one reason, according to Dobson.
“There was a lot of noise about this tour, but it cost us less than playing the Kings in Heidelberg would have,” Dobson said. “There was a bigger picture to it, it was a really good rugby experience and it was all expenses paid.
“For the guys to have really done well on and off the field was brilliant, it wasn’t an indulgence. It cost us less than playing a friendly in South Africa.
“I think we’ve all accepted that the Currie Cup has become a largely developmental competition to give guys opportunities, and there’s very little time to experiment in a six-game competition.”
“You have to choose your best team every week. One of the conditions we set for this tour was that we really wanted to play two games - to make it feel like a tour and not a Super Rugby week and also to give guys opportunities.
“I thought guys like Herschel Jantjies and Chris Massyn were outstanding, and if we had gone straight into the Currie Cup they wouldn’t have got that opportunity. With Sergeal Petersen we may have though seven months (on the sidelines) is too much to risk him, but now he’s played twice.
“So it gave us a massive chance to see our depth.”
But for all the positives, the tour also brought one or two negatives. Ahead of their season-opener against the Free State Cheetahs at Newlands, WP were dealt a blow while on tour as hooker Ramone Samuel’s sustained a knee injury that Dobson described as “ugly” during a press conference yesterday, while Chris van Zyl is nursing a knee injury he initially picked up during Super Rugby.
“Ramone’s injury is a serious knee injury,” Dobson said.
“Johan du Toit is also out for a while with a knee injury, I’m not sure about the severity of it. Cobus Wiese is seeing a specialist today, and Jean-Luc (du Plessis) isn’t available this week, his hip needs to be assessed. They’re trying not to operate, but if they do operate it’ll be the same injury (as the one that kept him on the sidelines for more than a year).”
With Damian Willemse on Springbok duty and Du Plessis in doubt for the near future, Dobson explained that Dillyn Leyds, SP Marais and Craig Barry can all stand in at No 10, but explained that they’re looking at Joshua Stander to pull on the general’s jumper.
“Dillyn sparks so much for us from the back, and I think we’ll be losing a lot of his value (playing him at flyhalf),” Dobson said about his reservations when it comes to playing Leyds - who started at No 10 against Montpellier - there,” Dobson said. “We were very happy with the way Josh Stander played towards the end of the SuperSport Challenge. If you had seen him at school you’d have seen that he’s a really exceptional attacking flyhalf, so we’re looking to getting him back to his natural game.”