CAPE TOWN - Western Province defence coach Norman Laker says their goal will be to keep the Lions out - scoreless if they can - when they host the Johannesburg side in a Currie Cup semi-final on Saturday (kick-off 5 pm).
Two weeks ago, the Lions were the victorious side when they hosted Province at Ellis Park. But when Province faced the Lions earlier this season, they put in a dominant performance and sent the Lions back home with only three points, while they racked up 39.
But Laker knows that it will be a very different Lions outfit to the one that couldn’t score a single try in that match - in fact, it will also be a very different team to the one that beat WP 29-20 in Johannesburg a fortnight ago. Nonetheless, the goal remains the same.
“It’s a totally different team to the one we faced, there’s a few new faces, a few Boks. They tend to throw the ball around at Ellis Park, but I think they’re going to be more physical with the guys they got back “ Laker said.
And when asked what he expects, Laker said: “Definitely a physical game. There’s a few things we’ve worked on, things that we needed to fix.”
One problem that Province have encountered this season has been letting go of convincing leads in their away games. And that has resulted in a couple of disappointing losses.
In a number of fixtures this season, Province have failed to perform for the full 80 - which resulted in a poor run at almost every stadium they played in other than Newlands.
They’ve also been guilty of not turning their possession into points.
In their 31-20 win over the Sharks, Province made a lot of errors in the opposition 22 and ruined a number of scoring opportunities. But in the second half they did better, and they got the ultimate reward - not only a few tries, but an away victory as well.
And, of course, that second-half showing is exactly the kind of performance the hosts are hoping to produce this weekend.
“The last 20 minutes of the Sharks game was the standard we set for ourselves. We’ve made a decision that when we take the lead, we’re going to keep it there and finish,” Laker said.
One key member for WP looking forward to a great performance is Huw Jones.
Stoked with an away win to secure a home semi final. Believe 🙏 pic.twitter.com/Woz8MDhZvf
The Scotland international - who is set to join Glasgow Warriors after the Currie Cup - could possibly play in his last game at Newlands on Saturday, should Province not progress to the finals.
The exciting centre didn’t have the final season in Cape Town that he would have hoped for, as he missed out on the most of the 2017 Super Rugby season due to injury.
But winning the Currie Cup trophy would kind of make up for that disappointment.
“It’s quite a nice occasion, possible my last game at Newlands. If we can win it (Currie Cup), it would be the perfect ending.”
“Playing at Newlands (what he’s going to miss most). There’s no other place like it in South Africa. It has the best atmosphere - it lifts you up so much, and I’m going to miss that a lot. I love this team, I love this union.
Jones, who started at outside centre last week as John Dobson wanted to give him more space, could be back in the No 12 jersey against the Lions - the position that he’s started in throughout the year.
“I don’t really mind. Once you’re in open play you can sort of manufacture your own space. So the number on my jersey doesn’t really matter too much to me.
And on the battle against the Lions’ Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Harold Vorster, Jones said: “They are two good, physical ball players. They like to come hard. But we’ve played against them before, so we know what to deal with, and we know the threats they’ll bring. So it’s all about who turns out on the day and how we deal with each other. So it’s quite a nice battle to have.”