CAPE TOWN - Western Province coach John Dobson hopes the personnel changes to the team to face the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday isn’t the only aspect of his team that will be different.
On Wednesday, Province suffered a 44-34 defeat Griquas in Kimberley after the hosts outplayed them with a top display of running rugby.
But WP were also their own worst enemies at times, and their shortcomings on defence, discipline and a number of unforced errors are some of the areas where the Province coach wants to see a vast improvement.
“We lacked physical commitment. I don’t know if it was due to the environment, the workload or Griquas’ good play, ” Dobson said.
“Also our defensive breakdown decision-making ... we’re putting our heads in, but we’re not really slowing down ball.
“The way we tackled, or didn’t tackle, was the difference between the two teams and our discipline wasn’t where it should be.”
Province slipped a number of one-on-one tackles against Griquas, and Dobson pointed out he didn’t think the union’s defensive system or techniques are to blame, but rather that the players aren’t performing well defensively on a consistent basis.
And although the short turnaround (this will be WP’s third game in eight days) probably won’t allow them to fix all the flaws exposed on Wednesday, Dobson does have a new (starting) addition to be excited about.
Scarra Ntubeni will earn his 50th WP cap as he starts at hooker in a team featuring five changes. Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, flyhalf Damian Willemse, centre Huw Jones, flank Jaco Coetzee and hooker Ntubeni all come into WP’s run-on side for the home clash.
Vermaak replaces Dewaldt Duvenage, who picked up an ankle injury on Wednesday and is expected to be out for one or two weeks, and will form the halfback pairing with Willemse, while Justin Phillips and Kurt Coleman will feature off the bench.
Scottish international Huw Jones makes his first start, since returning from a hamstring injury, at inside centre. Ramone Samuels and Steph de Wit will be on the bench alongside lock Eddie Zandberg, who will make his Currie Cup debut if he comes on.
Dobson was confident Ntubeni’s lineout-throwing would add a lot to the team’s set-piece: “Scarra was a bit sick on Wednesday so we kept Ramone on even though he was cramping. Scarra’s throwing is excellent, so that’s a real strength of his.”
And at flyhalf, another prospect that Dobson has a lot of confidence in is Willemse.
"Damian is the first-choice flyhalf at the moment. Kurt did really well on Wednesday, but we have to look to the future. We’re backing Damian, despite him making a few tactical mistakes when he came on” Dobson said.
“The thing we had to do (against Griquas) was not get involved in emotional overreaction. We’re going to back him. That’s our plan.”