John Dobson’s team will have to put in a strong defensive effort on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Western Province assistant coach Norman Laker perfectly summed it up when he said their last league game against the Free State Cheetahs is virtually a quarter-final lose and you’re out.

After three Currie Cup losses to the Sharks, Golden Lions and Griquas, Province have no chance of hosting a home semi-final anymore, but their chances of booking a last-four spot is very real - if they pull through in Bloemfontein on Saturday. There have been a lot of lessons for the Cape side this season, but it hasn’t been all bad. So, here are five things that could have a big say in whether or not John Dobson’s team make it into the semis.

1. Spread it out

Following their win against the Pumas at Newlands, Dobson said that they were a bit tight on defence and added that it’s something they needed to work on. WP were lucky that Jimmy Stonehouse’s eager runners didn’t capitalise on the space out wide, but that wasn’t the last time we saw that from Province, and it’s going to be vital that it doesn’t happen again this weekend.

The Cheetahs’ ball-in-hand approach means a strong defensive performance by WP will be key.

2. Check those final passes

When it comes to attack, the only thing sadder than not being able to create opportunities is creating them, but not being able to finish and WP know all about that.

They put together some promising displays in Kimberley, but handling errors and that final pass not going to hand, especially later on, saw them lose 27-23.

Patience, focus and communication are going to have to be the 2017 champions’ best friends going up to Bloem, but I hardly doubt that’s something they are unaware of at this stage.

After three losses so far, Province have no chance of hosting a home semi-final anymore. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
After three losses so far, Province have no chance of hosting a home semi-final anymore. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

3. Be consistent

While it was a case of too little, too late against Griquas last week, there have been a number of times this season where WP just didn’t go the distance. Against the Pumas, if you had to look at that first half, they looked well on their way to humiliating the Nelspruit-based side. It was a good performance from WP overall, but in the second half all of that vanished.

They had very little time on the ball after the break, and even when they did, they didn’t make the most of it. Against Griquas, it was as if they had waited for the last part of the game to really get into it, and they did do well to close the gap on the scoreboard with 13 men, by the way, but it wasn’t enough.

Best bet? Avoid those situations in the first place. A strong start followed by a poor finish is no better than a slow start followed by a late surge.

WP haven’t played the best catch-up rugby this season. So, lets hope it’s a strong start and a sustained effort we see from them in the Free State.

4. International injection

With Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw and Scarra Ntubeni back in the run-on side for WP - with Damian Willemse also starting this weekend - it wouldn’t be too optimistic to expect some exciting moments. WP were badly disrupted by the departure of a number of key players ahead of the Griquas game, so the contribution of those figures will be crucial.

5. Catch them on the counter

Earlier this week, Laker spoke about how they want to put the Cheetahs under pressure with their defence in order to force turnovers and “create chaos” for the likes of Leyds and Sergeal Petersen. If the magnitude of solid defence wasn’t highlighted enough higher up in this piece, then the prospect of Leyds, Petersen, Willemse and Ruhan Nel wreaking havoc in broken play and making the Cheetahs pay on the counter-attack should do enough to galvanise WP into piling that defensive pressure on the opposition.

Western Province:

15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie

Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Nama Xaba, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Seabelo Senatla.


Cape Times

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