Only an improved Western Province will give Newlands a decent send-off
CAPE TOWN - Western Province are going to have to show some serious improvement if they want to see their goal of giving Newlands a decent send-off evolve into anything more than just a dream.
So far, John Dobson’s men have produced only two performances that have really been worth emulating since rugby returned.
Against Griquas, they put up a pleasing attacking display, and against the Cheetahs, they also delivered in the Super Rugby Unlocked crunch match, beating them 30-13 in Cape Town.
Playing for 80 minutes seemed an unreachable target for the Cape side in their games against the Lions, the Pumas and the Bulls at both Loftus. And at the weekend in their opening Currie Cup match at Newlands, they again controlled one half, a half in which they owned the territory and possession stats and had opportunities to put the game to bed, only to let the Bulls back in the second half.
The angle their story has taken since rugby’s return has constantly been one of inconsistency – they struggle on attack in a few games, and then play proper Western Province rugby and create and capitalise in others (like against Griquas). Their pack gets schooled in one game (like against the Bulls during Super Rugby Unlocked), then give the lessons in the next one. Their defence has also been on a rollercoaster – impeccable in one game and poor in between.
While this does show that they have the ability to get it right, it’s not enough. While every team will have the occasional off day at the office, it can’t be a case of always wondering which side is going to pitch up on the day. That's not going to win them titles.
Another thing that WP could do well with reviewing as they prepare to head into their Currie Cup match against the Lions at Ellis Park is the make-up of the team.
It’s perhaps time for change in midfield, and bringing in Ruhan Nel at outside centre and rotating Dan du Plessis and Rikus Pretorius at 12 is an option that could do a lot of good for the team, while the competition at 12 could also have a galvanising effect on the duo. Nel made a clear difference to the team when he came on against the Bulls and has shown many times that he can bring an edge to the team’s attack. And if Dobson wants to experiment a bit more, he can even give Michal Haznar a go alongside Nel.
At scrumhalf, Herschel Jantjies has also been a shadow of the presence the Test Rugby world was introduced to last year, and giving a start to someone like Godlen Masimla could also encourage Jantjies to up his game.
Paul de Wet is of course another candidate for the No 9 position and also offers solid backup for Jantjies, but going with Masimla (De Wet started against Griquas) would allow Dobson a chance to rotate the three, although there is no doubt as to who the first-choice scrumhalf is.
Granted, this competition – especially with the threat of games being called off due to Covid protocols – makes it hard to experiment and teams need to get the most done in every single game.
But things clearly haven’t been working for Province, so why not try something else?