CAPE TOWN – Western Province defence coach Norman Laker says they have to approach every game like a final as they prepare for their second Currie Cup game against the Pumas on Friday.
Province got their Currie Cup campaign off to the best-possible start with a 32-0 victory over the Free State Cheetahs in extreme conditions, and it was everything they did in those 80 minutes despite a torrential downpour at Newlands that should have made the triumph a morale-boosting one.
But given the format of the amended competition - which features a single-round, six-game format - there's no room for error or complacency.
And Laker needs no reminding of that.
“I must say, you don’t always get an opportunity not to concede any points. At Newlands it was a tough game against the Cheetahs and obviously we’re very pleased with the performance. But it is something to build on now. It is a standard that we have set ourselves and we must keep on building and get better with as the season carries on,” he said.
Ahead of their opener, WP went on a two-match pre-season tour to France - where they beat Narbonne convincingly but went down to a powerhouse Montpellier side - something Laker believes will help the team as they head into a completely different challenge in Nelspruit.
“We had a great pre-season in France, we played Montpellier, which was a physical team with South Africans in it,” he said.
“Last year we didn’t have any pre-season, which was very different to this year. Last year we had a week to prepare and then we played those four games almost within in a week. Free State, Griquas, Bulls and Pumas inbetween, which we didn’t have this year.”
“Like we all know, going to Mbombela is going to be a tough game, we lost there last year. We know they are a physical team and we know what they are capable of doing, so I think if we just do what we can do, focus on ourselves and improve on what we did on Saturday afternoon, I am sure... I know we are capable of beating them.”
“But we must focus on ourselves and know that everything is in order in our house.”
Last year, the defending champions struggled to get going in the competition as they lost to the likes of the Cheetahs and the Pumas away, and while Laker is expecting a physical test, he also highlighted the threats the Pumas have at their disposal out wide.
“They are almost like a Bulls 2009 team, very physical. They kick quite a lot, have good forwards and if they do get the opportunity out wide they can burn you. JP Lewis has played for us for quite a while, we know him. Hennie Skorbinski...we know him and he has played with the Sevens with Ruhan (Nel). So if they do get a sniff out wide they will take it, but they are a big pack and they are a kicking-orientated team.”
“So I think there are a few lessons we can take from it (last year). We have worked on it to make sure we don’t have to have to learn lessons again in Nelspruit this weekend because there is no second round. If you fail in the first one you can't come back to Newlands and say you lost the first one and you will get this one back.”
“Almost every game is a final, so it is tough every single time you play against the opposition. It doesn’t matter who you play against, every single team is competitive in this competition.”
“We are highly motivated going to the Pumas.”