Just when Western Province were looking like they had rediscovered their mojo in this season’s Currie Cup, they have suffered a crucial setback.
Despite having minimal possession, Province crossed the whitewash six times in the 39-3 destruction of the Golden Lions on Friday evening. The scoreline was mostly achieved through the brilliance of the back three.
However, WP coach John Dobson is now likely to be without two of them for the next week’s big game against the Sharks. He will definitely lose SP Marais, after the fullback limped off with a leg injury, and is expected to be out of action for at least six weeks.
“It’s a big blow for us. We will probably not have Dillyn Leyds available next week either. There is a good chance he will be with the Springboks in Argentina,” Dobson said.
“To lose SP and Dillyn will put us under pressure against the Sharks. SP has done some sort of ligament and could be out for six weeks.”
Marais’ injury and Leyds’ potential unavailability will certainly force a major reshuffle. Province handed over the kicking duties to young pivot Damian Willemse after Marais left the field, and although the flyhalf is an adequate goalkicker, it is accepted that Dobson does not want to burden the teenager with the responsibility of slotting over the goals just yet.
Equally, Marais’ kicking out of hand to relieve pressure with his ranging torpedo touch-finders will be missed, especially after Province failed to execute their exit plan efficiently from their own 22 against the Lions.
Man of the Match Leyds, meanwhile, was the catalyst for the majority of WP’s attacking intent with his incisive running from deep on Friday and Dobson will know he is unlikely to find a player with an equal skill set coming into the team. To compound matters, Springbok wing Bjorn Basson is also still out with a shoulder injury which will test the depth of Province’s backlines resources.
Fortunately, utility back Dan Kriel has shown good promise on the wing in the last two games - he replaced Basson against the Bulls and Marais on Friday - while Springboks Sevens stars Ruhan Nel and Werner Kok are working their way back from injury.
However, Dobson and captain Chris van Zyl did not dwell on the negatives too long, for there was a lot to be proud of on Friday, particularly the defensive effort.
Province made close to 200 tackles and absorbed plenty of pressure to produce a shut-out on the night. Although the entire WP team put their bodies on the line, Dobson was particularly pleased with No 8 Nizaam Carr’s performance.
“I think a guy who deserves credit, for he is known as a really attacking loose forward and being really skilful, but hell Nizaam really put himself into some dark spaces. Whether it was turnovers or defensively, which is not something ‘Nemo’ is renowned for, but he was exceptional. In 2014 and 2015 he played so well in the Currie Cup that he was picked for the end of the year Bok tour and that’s the way I hope he’s going again,” Dobson said.