What WP need to copy and paste, what they need to erase
CAPE TOWN - Western Province survived a second-half fightback to edge the Free State Cheetahs 31-29 in Bloemfontein at the weekend, but they can't rely on another 81st-minute save when they host the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday (2.15pm kickoff).
If the Blue Bulls win their carry-over match against the Golden Lions tomorrow, they will have locked down a home semi-final berth, regardless of what happens in their match against the Pumas on Sunday or, if they lose against the Lions and win against the Pumas, same applies.
The other home semi, however, will still be up for grabs. Should Province beat the Sharks, they will bag the home-ground advantage for the last-four battle.
If the Sharks win, they claim it. Basically, whoever wins this game is sure of a semi-final at home in addition to the Bulls. So, these guys have everything to play for.
Based on their performance against the Cheetahs, here are three things for WP to replicate from that game and an area to improve on if they want to celebrate at Newlands on Saturday.
Things to copy and paste
More of that scrummaging ...
Overall, it wasn't the best performance from either team in Bloem, with the hosts in particular having had a tough afternoon thanks to their error-strewn production which seriously impaired their ability to get attacking continuity. WP won't hail this one as their finest either, but one thing that no doubt helped them was their scrummaging, while their defence also held well. Considering the Sharks' struggles at the set-piece and contact points in general in recent weeks, it's an area that WP can pounce on. After all, their scrum has been one of their mainstays.
🕑 Change in time for Saturday's clash at DHL Newlands, and confirmation of starts for other final round matches in the #CarlingCurrieCup - info here: https://t.co/nsZLPCtzeo@blacklabelsa #TheChampionWithin #ReachForGold @WP_RUGBY @TheSharksZA pic.twitter.com/EZ34s1HjcQ— Carling Currie Cup (@TheCurrieCup) January 5, 2021
Round two of that goal-kicking performance ...
If Tim Swiel can emulate the flawlessness of his performance off the tee against the Durbanites this weekend, WP will be on the right path. Against the Cheetahs, we again saw how crucial those three-pointers can be.
Both Swiel and Francois Steyn's contributions with the boot made that much clear, and the WP flyhalf's late penalty conversion was literally the difference in the tightly-contested second half (which the Cheetahs won, by the way). Had he sent it wide, the Cheetahs would have won the game and still be in the running for a playoff spot. That right there is the difference one converted kick can make.
Power to the lineout drive ...
A number of WP's tries in the Free State came from powerful driving mauls, and while I'm not saying they should overrely on this move or keep play tight and between the forwards exclusively when it comes to what follows on those 22m lineouts, it's something that could again be a handy tool against the Sharks – a team Province should be able to overpower with their forwards.
Thing to erase
WP have grown this nasty habit of playing only one half of rugby in certain games, and their match against the Cheetahs was another example of that. We don't need to go into detail here, it's happened a good few times.
Point is, if they want to ensure that Newlands plays host to a Currie Cup decider one last time, they can't be playing catch-up in the second half or allow a decent first-half lead to slip. They need to be consistent from kick-off through to the final hooter.