John Dobson wants Western Province to play without fear in their Currie Cup semi-final against the Bulls. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
John Dobson wants Western Province to play without fear in their Currie Cup semi-final against the Bulls. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Johan Dobson wants Western Province to embrace the ‘joie de vivre’ spirit

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Sep 3, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Why do sports teams exist? Well, these days the industry is big-money business, but ultimately at the core of it all is doing it for the fans.

And that is something that Western Province are rediscovering in the way they approach the game, and it is also how they intend to tackle the Bulls in tonight’s Currie Cup semi-final at Loftus Versfeld (7pm kickoff).

WP coach John Dobson and captain Ernst van Rhyn gave their insights into what led to last weekend’s incredible 35-24 victory over the Sharks in Durban.

The result – which saw them sneak into the semi-finals – was one thing, but the type of rugby that Province played harked back to the title-winning teams of the 1980s and 1990s in some respects.

It was what is sometimes called ‘traditional Province rugby’, with the ball being allowed to do the work and the players not being scared to try things and make mistakes.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly a far cry from today’s modern world of box-kicks and penalties.

And Dobson believes that it could be the key to success, not only against the Bulls, but going forward in the United Rugby Championship, which begins later this month.

Asked by IOL Sport about whether that ‘joie de vivre’ spirit has been the missing ingredient in what has been an inconsistent season, with the shackles now released, Dobson said: “I think you’re right. That’s how we want to play, and it’s certainly how we would like to play tomorrow night.

“I think the shackles off is a good way of putting it. We got ourselves under pressure in this tournament – firstly through the fixtures, as the log changed very dramatically when points were allocated.

“Last week, we went into that game… The game has been moved to a Friday, so the Bulls can get ready for a final next Saturday – we are not thinking like that.

“We just want to produce the same sort of performance, and whatever the scoreboard says afterwards, if we can play the same way, it might well be in our favour. And I think that’s the way we want to play in terms of our attack – be dynamic, get the ball-in-hand.

“It helped that we got ourselves territorially in the right position to be able to do that. I don’t think that rugby is always so feasible, or practical, further out.

“I think people of the Province were proud of our performance last week – almal die mense, the faithful. We would like to emulate that again, and it’s also the way we would want to play, the DNA of the region. I’m just sorry that it’s been so sporadic up until last week.”

Van Rhyn added: “(The win against the Sharks) gave us good motivation, but also an idea of what we are capable of. It’s a big momentum shift for us, and it has built quite a positive vibe, rather than feeling the pressure or nervous.

“Last week, just the intensity showed. There were still a lot of errors – we lost five lineouts on their tryline. But we are really proud of the physicality from the forwards.

“We want to play with some kind of freedom, rather than having a sword hanging over your head. We gave it our all last week rather than worrying about the result or making mistakes.”

But against Jake White’s marauding Bulls, Province know that they cannot afford those unforced errors, especially in the lineouts, where Springbok hooker Scarra Ntubeni returns from a quad issue.

Big No 8 Evan Roos and lock Salmaan Moerat are not quite ready yet, but Deon Fourie will provide much-needed experience upfront against a powerful Bulls pack.

“It’s a really physical team, and we haven’t brought in anybody – and we know who they have brought in,” Dobson said about the Bulls.

“They have really good players in the pack, and one of the world’s best flyhalves in Goosen. Coaches sometimes fight for the underdog tag, but I don’t have to fight for it (this time).

“Direct, great mauling pack, a lot of big ball-carriers in their pack. We are going to have to man-up in that respect, and restrict their entries into our 22.”

Western Province Team

15 Sergeal Petersen 14 Ruhan Nel 13 Juan de Jongh 12 Dan du Plessis 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Tim Swiel 9 Paul de Wet 8 Hacjivah Dayimani 7 Marcel Theunissen 6 Deon Fourie 5 Johan du Toit 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain) 3 Sazi Sandi 2 Scarra Ntubeni 1 Leon Lyons.

Bench (from): 16 Andre-Hugo Venter 17 Dian Bleuler 18 Neethling Fouché 19 Justin Basson 20 Nama Xaba 21 Godlen Masimla 22 Rikus Pretorius 23 Tristan Leyds 24 Warrick Gelant.

@ashfakmohamed

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