To maul or not to maul: Do Western Province have a new party trick?
CAPE TOWN - Western Province scored three of their four tries against Griquas via driving mauls, but they will need a new party trick if they hope to knock over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (4.30pm kickoff).
All three tires were dotted down by Province hookers, with Springbok Bongi Mbonambi getting over the line twice, while replacement Chad Solomon grabbed a five-pointer on his 50th appearance for the “Streeptruie”.
That has been the foundation of WP's Currie Cup campaign so far – a strong pack of forwards who dominate the collisions, win scrum penalties and drive the opposition into submission off lineouts. But based on what the Cheetahs dished up in their 37-10 bonus-point win over the Sharks on Sunday, the WP approach will not be enough to be victorious at Free State Stadium.
Hawies Fourie's team have their own set of combative forwards who won't take a step back for the Springbok-laden WP unit, with props Boan Venter and Khutha Mchunu, as well as locks Carl Wegner and Reniel Hugo relishing the physical battle.
A dynamic loose trio of Andisa Ntsila, Oupa Mohoje and Jeandre Rudolph rounds off an impressive front eight who will look to stamp their own authority on proceedings, especially at home, against the likes of Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
“We are quite happy with where we are at, but the maul is still a work in progress for us,” WP forwards coach Rito Hlungwani said. “We are happy to use it as a weapon, and we know that there was a bit of weakness in terms of maul stopping last weekend, but we are playing a different team this weekend.
“Boan is a very good player, but from our point of view, our big focus is improving every single week. We train really hard to expose the opposition's weaknesses. We train for the worst-case scenario, so we always prepare well for whatever they throw at us. So, whether they come with a fast-paced game or power game, we believe we prepare well and analyse teams really well.”
WP head coach John Dobson will hope that his backline can finish better on attack, as they had enough possession to score further tries against Griquas. He was particularly pleased with the performances of centres Rikus Pretorius and Dan du Plessis – who combined for a controversial try that should not have been awarded due to a forward pass.
But Dobson noted that Ruhan Nel is also in good shape after recovering from injury, and perhaps his Sevens skill-set may be of greater worth against a Cheetahs back division that won't allow WP the same space they enjoyed against Griquas.
* Meanwhile, Lock David Meihuizen comes into the starting line-up in the only change to the DHL Western Province team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Meihuizen joins JD Schickerling in the second row for the Carling Currie Cup encounter against the Free State side, which kicks off at 16h30 on Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
The front row duo of Scarra Ntubeni and Neethling Fouche return from injury to take their places on the replacements bench, along with loose forward Marcel Theunissen.
Western Province Team:
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 David Meihuizen, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Ruhan Nel, 23 Tristan Leyds, 24 Leon Lyons, 25 Chad Solomon, 26 Ben-Jason Dixon.