CAPE TOWN - Like Western Province coach John Dobson said at a press conference on Monday - all four of WP’s remaining games are “must-wins”. And before they can even think of their games against the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions and Sharks, Province first have to move a stone called Griquas out the way as the race to the Currie Cup semi-finals intensifies.
After their shock 22-12 defeat to the Pumas last weekend, they sure have a lot to make up for. But they will also want to prevent a follow up to what went down when they met a firing Griquas side in Kimberley earlier in the Currie Cup. So, here are some things WP need to fix before Saturday (5.15pm kickoff) and what they should keep an eye or two on come the weekend.
Those handling errors
I don’t know what more can be said about all the handling errors WP made in Nelspruit last Friday - there were 26, according to Dobson. That is a shocking number of errors for any team, especially for this one, because if any team has impressed with their skillset and their attacking prowess this season, it’s WP. I mean, when they’ve been good, they’ve been really good. And like Dobson said earlier this week - his team’s handling show against the Pumas was an aberration, a freakish event for guys of that skill level. There was none of that silky handling at the Mbombela Stadium last week, and against a team like Griquas - who produced an inspired attacking display to secure a 44-34 victory over WP the last time they met - there can be no handling glitches, because they will pay for it again.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, overshadowed WP’s failure to look after the ball last week. But their tactical kicking was also an area that put up its hand to be sent to the repair shop. It hasn’t been a completely disappointing area until now, but one that can certainly do with some improving. And although flyhalf Damian Willemse has thrilled with his attacking displays since he made his Currie Cup debut, his tactical performance with the boot hasn’t always been as good as his stepping and swerving. It can be fixed, though, so it would probably be a bit unnecessary to go into panic mode over impending kicking doom for WP. After all, in a far-from-perfect performance against the team from Mpumalanga, tactical kicking was only one of their weaker areas.
WP's performance at the breakdowns against the Pumas wasn’t terrible - it definitely can’t be considered a candidate for the Horrow Show of the Weekend award (after what we saw at the weekend, I doubt there’s any place for other rugby candidates, only one sure winner). Anyway, they can do better on the ground and, needless to say, if Griquas are going to be anywhere near the level they were at when they last played WP, they will make proper use of any turnover ball they can get. So, although WP's performance at ruck time wasn’t bad, they can certainly do better, and it’s an area they should use to their advantage.
The fact that Griquas put up an attacking spectacle against WP can very easily form a point on its own, but I think it would just be better to mix it in with their backline - and what a backline performance that was. The game was extremely fast-paced, and Griquas’ backline took to that high intensity like controversy to Super Rugby refs. Guys like right wing Ederies Arendse and centres Jonathan Francke and Tertius Kruger wreaked all sorts of havoc in midfield and in the wider channels. But WP, too, have a backline that can run circles of all sizes around their opposition. So the performance of these two sides’ backlines promises to be good.
Both the Pumas and Province were guilty of conceding a couple of penalties at the set-piece, but WP definitely have what it takes to dominate when their tight five packs down opposite Griquas’ on Saturday. Although young prop Michael Kumbirai has been pleasing with his performances until now, things could have gone better at the weekend, and the availability of Wilco Louw should serve as a scrum boost.