CAPE TOWN – Western Province coach John Dobson says he’s facing a “tricky” backline selection for their Currie Cup semi-final clash against the Golden Lions at Newlands on Saturday (5pm kickoff).
After a Currie Cup campaign that could be described as hot and cold, Province – who have produced a few great performances this season as well as a couple of frustrating ones – secured a home playoff fixture after beating the Sharks 31-20 in Durban at the weekend.
Against the Sharks, Ruhan Nel – who has mostly played on the wing this Currie Cup season – started at inside centre to accommodate Huw Jones at No 13, as Dobson wanted to give the exciting Scotland international more space.
And although Dobson was pleased with what Nel produced in midfield, it would be safe to assume that Jones and EW Viljoen – who was rested last week – will form the centre pairing this week.
The Province mentor added that SP Marais is back after his injury layoff, but seeing that he hasn’t played any rugby in some time, a start at fullback is unlikely for the 28-year-old.
“Jano Vermaak and (Sikhumbuzo) Notshe (who was sick last week) are available, and Dan du Plessis is back to full training. SP Marais is also back, and with SP back, it’s going to be a tricky selection. But he hasn’t played for a while, so it might be hard throwing him into a semi-final,” Dobson said.
“Ruhan did very well at 12 – he was direct and straight – but EW (Viljoen) has been good all season. I’m not sure about Huw at 13, but he will be in the team.”
And while Province have an strong player roster to choose from, the Lions are looking good in that department as well, as they have Springbok front-liners Malcolm Marx, Ross Cronjé, Courtnall Skosan, Andries Coetzee, and Ruan Dreyer available, while there are also stars like Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Kwagga Smith.
And Dobson didn’t forget about loose forward Cyle Brink’s breakdown work either.
“It’s a very big game. The Lions have been improving all the time, and the injection of five Springboks – five starting Springboks – into any team will make a big difference and raise the level of intensity,” he said.
“Keegan (Daniel) and Franco Marais got a couple of steals (for the Sharks last week), and they (the Lions) have Malcolm Marx, Kwagga Smith and Cyle Brink who are really good stealers. So, it’s going to be very important that we react quickly.”
Apart from their breakdown, another area that Dobson is hoping to see improvement in is their defence – something he feels could have gone much better against the Sharks.
“We felt that we didn’t work hard enough on defence on Saturday – we didn’t fold around enough to stop their forwards from running on to our backs.”
But Dobson also reckons his team are in a “good space” as they prepare for their “toughest game of the competition”.
“I think we’re in a good space, and it was important to get confidence from beating probably the best team in the competition away. So we’re in a good space, but we know it’s probably going to be our toughest game of the competition,” the WP coach said.
“If we had to play the Lions at Ellis Park again, I think we would have been in real trouble. We’re excited to play at Newlands.”