Western Province are facing an enormous psychological test in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls following their unexpected defeat to the Lions on Saturday.
Stephen Nell – Sport24
Has it left a psychological scar on WP before a match against a side loaded with Springboks?
“I don’t think so at all,” said WP coach Allister Coetzee when asked this question after his side let slip a 17-3 lead to go down 25-27.
Province were partly undone by feverishly chasing the fourth try. They lost a little structure and by the end were forced to decide to rather kick for touch when they had a penalty that could have clinched them the game.
Nevertheless, WP struggled in pressure situations to exert the same kind of dominance in the set phases as before. There were some good scrums, but WP were inconsistent in that facet, while their lineout play was also not up to the usual standard.
“I am not satisfied with the set-pieces,” admitted Coetzee.
“The lineouts were a good platform for us to play off throughout the year. This time we conceded possession there a few times.
“Our discipline at the set phases could have been better, but that is something we can get right.”
Province have no other choice. They dominated a weakened Bulls side up front in the victory at Newlands, which was sealed with a brilliant pushover try.
However, the Bulls forwards won’t be similar easy-beats with Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw and Pierre Spies in their midst.
Matfield will also offer a much bigger challenge to WP in the lineouts and his battle with Andries Bekker will make for intriguing viewing.
Bekker should be close to match-fit after getting 80 minutes against the Lions on Saturday.
Coetzee can call on 2 reinforcements this week – Springbok flank Schalk Burger and tighthead prop Brock Harris.
However, the WP loose-trio of Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen and Luke Watson is functioning so well that Coetzee has a tough call on how to best integrate Burger into the side.
He may be lacking match-fitness, so perhaps the best route is via the substitutes bench.
Springbok wing Tonderai Chavhanga was withdrawn from the WP team on Friday for the clash against the Lions because of a shoulder injury. Should he recover in time, he may be in action for WP this weekend.
Gio Aplon and Sireli Naqelevuki were used as wings against the Lions. Naqelevuki sustained an ankle injury and was replaced by Matt Toomua in the second half.
Coetzee will emphasise the importance of discipline this week.
“Our discipline has to be good, particularly when playing against a goalkicker like Morné Steyn. It will be important not to concede penalties unnecessarily,” he said.
“Our goal was to beat the Lions and get a bonus point. We weren’t successful, but are now getting a chance against the Bulls on our home ground. We are not down and out.”
Province and the Bulls clash at 5pm, while the other semifinal between the Sharks and Cheetahs will kick off at 14:30.