CAPE TOWN – Western Province coach John Dobson says his team “freestyled” a bit too much in their nail-biting 35-32 Currie Cup semi-final win over the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
The second playoff of the day turned into a thriller beyond compare as the scores were tied at 32-32 after a late unconverted try by the Bulls’ Dylan Sage, which took the game into extra time.
That happened as a result of flyhalf Manie Libbok putting a blotch on his perfect performance with the boot and missed the all-important touchline conversion.
WP wing SP Marais – who contributed 30 points in his Man-of-the-Match performance – also missed his target for the first time on the night when he teed up in the first half of extra time.
But he had another chance before the break, and made no mistake with his second attempt to take the score to 35-32.
Speaking after the game, Dobson said that the plan was to be more direct in their second meeting with the Bulls in as many weeks.
“Our plan was to be more direct. We tried to force it. There was a bit of pressure, which may have been my fault. We wanted to play this kind of rugby and we maybe freestyled a bit too much... in fact, I know we did,” he said.
“We would get to the 15 and bring it back into the defence, so we did not get those situations where we have SP and Trokkie (Juarno Augustus) blind getting those passes away. We did not stick to the plan, certainly in terms of the territory game.
“I went on to the field at fulltime, and they were entirely calm. They just breathed in, breathed out, realised they had to play the territory, get the penalty and that is exactly what happened.
“It says a lot, and I know (captain) Chris (van Zyl) wasn’t on, about the leadership in this group.”
During the post-match press conference, Dobson also said that they had hoped for a “stress test” before the final – which will be against the Sharks at Newlands.
And he reckons the level of stress the battle against the Bulls provided will stand them in good stead as they prepare for the final hurdle.
The Bulls weren’t given much of a chance against the log-leading WP side, who had managed six massive bonus-point wins as they brushed their opposition aside week after week.
Until Saturday, no other team had really tested the defending champions.
“That was tough. I have got absolutely no doubt (that it will help them in the final),” Dobson said.
“I did say in the week we wanted to be stress-tested, but I didn’t mean quite that,” the coach quipped. “A score of 19-12 could have been a nice stress test, not extra time.
“But I think we learned a hell of a lot from today. Maybe from a couple of errors of selection and the kicking game, which was poor.
“I said in the week the Bulls would keep the ball, and I think we must prevent that by line-speed or stealing the ball better from their breakdown.”