CAPE TOWN - A win over the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday is crucial if Western Province want to get the second half of their Currie Cup campaign off to a good start, and head coach John Dobson also has a few positional dilemmas to sort out before their home fixture.
Province host the Cheetahs when they return to action after their bye, and the match can be seen as a must-win for a number of reasons.
For one, WP currently find themselves fourth on the Currie Cup standings, and it’s crucial that they rack up as many points as they can in their home games against the Cheetahs and Griquas to make sure they stay in the top four.
And before they host the men from Kimberley, WP will travel to Nelspruit to face the Pumas, who are fifth on the log. Bagging those home wins is also important as WP will end their round-robin campaign with three away games against the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions and Sharks - who pipped Dobson’s side 21-20 at Newlands before their bye.
And, of course, another defeat to the Cheetahs can do no good for Province’s confidence. Confidence is already an element that WP probably aren’t extremely high on after their loss to the Sharks.
In that match, Province spent most of the time defending, and they coughed up a number of scoring opportunities through costly penalties and impatience with ball in hand. Indiscipline was also an issue, and their line-outs could have gone better.
Speaking of the line-outs, WP are likely to be without hooker Scarra Ntubeni for the rest of the Currie Cup season after he sustained an injury against the Sharks.
It will also be interesting to see who Dobson opts for at fullback against the Free State team. With Dillyn Leyds having been recalled into the Springbok set-up and regular No 15 SP Marais on the side lines for an unspecified period, Dobson might opt for Sevens man Ruhan Nel at 15.
With Bjorn Basson nursing a shoulder injury, a possible move for Nel from wing to fullback could open up the door for hard-working speedster Werner Kok. Kok’s tenacious defence, breakdown skills, physicality in the tackle, pace and that monster work rate could boost WP in a number of departments.
Centre Dan Kriel is another option to form WP’s wings on Saturday along with Seabelo Senatla, but his selection out wide is probably unlikely given that Dobson said it would be fairer to treat the twin brother of Bok Jesse Kriel “like a centre”, as he is not a wing.
And then there’s flyhalf. After their defeat to the Sharks, Dobson said that they will continue to back Damian Willemse, although Robert du Preez has recovered from injury and is back in the set-up.