CAPE TOWN - Ahead of their Currie Cup match against the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium on Friday, Western Province coach John Dobson says that he isn’t too worried about the hosts’ scrum - it’s the officiating at the maul that he’s concerned about.
At the team announcement at Newlands Stadium on Wednesday, Dobson explained that his decision to name two props on the bench has little to do with the Pumas’ scrum, but that it’s more about bringing “fresh legs” into the game that will be played at high altitude.
Dobson named loosehead Alistair Vermaak and swinger Caylib Oosthuizen on the bench to provide that second-half oomph.
“I am not too worried about the Pumas’ scrummaging,” Dobson said.
“It’s at altitude, and we just want to accommodate JC Janse van Rensburg and Ali Vermaak. I know Michael Kumbirai is strong enough, but to ask him to play at tighthead for 80 minutes at altitude is a lot to ask.
“So the two props is more about a plan to bring on fresh legs later in the game,”
And as clear as Dobson made his reasoning behind selecting two props on the bench in a 22-man team, so did he voice his concern about the maul and the officiating thereof.
“We need to get the mauling adjudication right, because the focus seems to be on defensive teams. Now you’re seeing all sorts of shift drives that a year ago would have been penalised. We saw the Sharks penalty try against us, and to be fair to the ref he put up his hand, you can’t complain about that," he said.
“But if we want to keep mauling in South African rugby, you need to blow defence and attack pretty much equally. Because at the moment we just seem to be blowing the defence.”
Apart from the officiating, WP need no reminding of the Pumas’ abilities when it comes to the maul, and captain Chris van Zyl acknowledged that it’s certainly one of the Pumas’ strengths.
“We’ve looked at their mauling, they run a sufficient maul, so that’s been one of our focuses to make sure that we prepare accordingly,” Van Zyl said.