There has been a target on John Dobson’s unbeaten Western Province team for a long time now in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, but no one has been able to come out on top.
One team which came close to beating WP were neighbours the Boland Cavaliers, but they couldn’t complete the mission. The Cape derby played out just over a month ago at Newlands. Boland held the lead with five minutes to go before Province, who were protecting a 13-game winning streak, banged over a penalty to claim a 23-21 victory.
WP coach Dobson’s charges have since won three matches with ease and have an unassailable lead in the five-team South Section. A total of 29 points from a possible 30 highlights the dominance of the defending champions.
Now Boland, who have won three of five outings to sit second on the standings, will get a second crack at Province in Worcester today. The teams will run onto Esselyn Park at 2.15pm and it should be filled to the brim for what should be another hard-fought affair in heavy conditions, especially with rain predicted.
A forward battle should ensue and here WP stand back for no one. But this a derby and one that Boland would dearly love to win, especially in front on their supporters. They do raise their play for such occasions, so one can expect a battle royal upfront and whoever dominates in close combat will have the upper hand.
One has to hand it to Dobson because he’s not fielded the same run-on XV for each of the previous six engagements and still he delivers the desired outcome. The coach is surely destined for higher honours in the future. He has made five changes for today’s game, three in tight five and two in the backline.
Hooker Scarra Ntubeni forms a new front row grid with Michael Kumbirai and Neethling Fouche while Johan du Toit comes into the starting line-up and forms a lock pairing with Ernst van Rhyn. Josh Stander is back at flyhalf while Logan Basson (brother of Springbok Bjorn Basson) gets a chance at rightwing, with regular No 14 Duncan Saal now at outside centre in place of the injured Dan Kriel.
“This is probably going to be our hardest game of the league season,” said Dobson.
“There will be a lot of pride at stake for both camps.
“We were very poor in the earlier game at Newlands, it was probably our most disappointing performance of the season.
“We’re at a tough venue, one that saw the All Blacks battle to beat Boland 22 years ago (32-21), so we know what’s coming our way.
“Our rivals will have a lot of belief after pushing us all the way and they will be highly motivated.
“Definitely a tricky game with the weather set to play a role in the outcome.”
Western Province: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Logan Basson, 13 Duncan Saal, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Chris Massyn, 6 Luke Stringer (capt), 5 Johan du Toit, 4 Ernst van Rhyn, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Michael Kumbirai.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Carlu Sadie, 18 Brendon Esterhuizen, 19 Juarno Augustus, 20 Steph de Wit, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Tristan Leyds