CAPE TOWN - Western Province coach John Dobson says their scoreless second half performance in their 45-34 win over the Blue Bulls on Saturday can’t be put down to “not trying”.
Province produced a spectacular first half of rugby at Newlands and scored six tries to the Bulls’ one to go into the break with a commanding 42-13 lead, but the Bulls narrowed the gap in the second half and ran in three more tries. Province, on the other hand, played an almost entirely defensive role in the second 40 - so it was a massive positive that the hosts’ defence was a much-improved effort to that shown in their defeat to Griquas last week.
“That first half was fantastic. The standard was so high and we were very frustrated by what happened in the second half - not with our performance, just the circumstances,” Dobson said.
“There were some really tough calls in the second half and we just didn’t have any ball. I was really pleased with our defence - the character and the physicality that was missing (against Griquas) was there.”
And as many improvements as there were against the Bulls, the one negative Province just couldn’t seem to shake was their poor discipline, which saw them concede penalties and lose outside centre EW Viljoen and replacement prop Michael Kumbirai to yellow cards.
“We weren’t planning on defending the lead, we just couldn’t get going and we started that half with 14 men against a team we knew was going to run absolutely everything. EW is one of the best defenders at 13 and it was hard to defend. But we tried our best and we were under pressure from then on,” the coach said.
“I honestly believe that the second half was not about not trying or getting sloppy or anything. I think it had to do with the discipline and the cards, a string of penalties and we just had no ball. We just had no set-piece in their half.”
But Province can be pleased with their performances in other areas.
Their mauling went well, their pack manhandled their Bulls counterparts for large parts of the game, their scrummaging was excellent yet again, and their lineout also functioned well, with captain Chris van Zyl and JD Schickerling putting the opposition jumpers under good pressure.
Province also rounded off a number of attacking movements really well, but the biggest improvement was certainly their defence.
And Dobson shared the sentiment: “Our defence we can tick from nought to 80.”
Although there were a number of pleasing aspects, especially in the first half, the performance of flyhalf Damian Willemse certainly ranks right up there.
The young playmaker was instrumental in Province’s attack, he controlled the game effortlessly, and his kicks to touch couldn’t be faulted either.
But it’s his brilliant solo try that stole the show.
“After Kimberley (against Griquas) when he made a couple of mistakes, a lot of people said ‘go for the safer flyhalf’ or that sort of thing, but we’ve got to back that kid.”
“The maturity and the discipline and everything about him is very, very special.”
Dobson also praised hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who made his first start of the season and also earned his 50th appearance for Province against the Bulls.
“For a guy who hasn’t played rugby for a year he was outstanding. He brought that intensity in the contact that we’re after, he’s a talisman in the team.”
“The guys love him, they gave him their own Man of the Match inside (the change room).”
Regarding their next fixture against the Lions at Newlands, Dobson added that he was expecting a tough encounter against the Johannesburg next weekend.
“It will be a tough game next week, but I think our team have got a lot more belief in both their attack and defence from tonight. It’s going to be tonight again - that’s what I’m expecting for next weekend.”
Dobson confirmed that the only serious injury from the game was to wing Bjorn Basson, who broke his collarbone.