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Rugby | Currie Cup

WP big men must shape up



Dillyn Leyds will inject flair into the Western Province back division when the Cape team heads to Durban seeking the win that will earn them a home semifinal, but it is the forwards who will be under the most pressure to produce at Kings Park.

Fortunately for coach John Dobson, the burly presence of Wilco Louw will be back in the selection mix and is likely to be included at No 3 when the Province team for the Durban trip is announced later on Thursday. Louw made a solid debut for the Springboks as a replacement in last week’s narrow loss to the All Blacks at Newlands, and he will be better off for the experience.

The scrum wasn’t such an issue for WP last week against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg. At least it wasn’t early in the game. Province dominated that phase in the initial parts of the contest. However, as was the case with many other aspects of their play, they lost their authority the longer the match lasted, and the loss of the go-forward they’d enjoyed in the first 50 minutes would have contributed to the mistakes that crept into their game and conspired against them.

It wasn’t the first time this season that WP started well and then faded away. They enjoyed a lead for the first hour of their match against the Pumas in Nelspruit before falling apart and being well beaten. That was surely the most disappointing second half of the season from a WP point of view, but the match at Emirates Airline Park came close.

And then there was the first round game at Newlands against Saturday’s opponents. The Cape side actually took a handy lead in that match but, like in Johannesburg a few days ago, they kept allowing the Sharks to come back at them by producing soft moments that their opponents exploited. Then in the second half we saw the same aforementioned movie being played out, with the Sharks forwards taking control of the battle between the packs and thus managing to assert a territorial grip that WP couldn’t shake.

The Sharks left it late but that doesn’t tell the full story of how much better they were than Province on the day, well at least after halftime, and it was mainly only brave and desperate scrambling defence from WP that kept them at bay.

REVERSE THE TREND

Dobson will remember how his team struggled for possession as much as he will recall some of the dumb decision-making that kept his men from being able to exit when they did get the ball in that game. He needs to reverse the trend of the WP pack under-performing and coming off second best if there is to be a home semifinal in the Cape team’s future.

The lineouts were particularly poor in Johannesburg and played the biggest role of all in the WP fade that saw them squander a 10-point lead and allow the Lions to score 19 unanswered points in the last quarter, with two tries being scored against them in the last 10 minutes.

Marvin Orie was magnificent for the Lions but WP will know they are up against an excellent defensive lineout practitioner at Kings Park as Ruan Botha, the Sharks captain, used to play for them. It was Botha who effectively saw to it that Pieter-Steph du Toit started the international season as an impact sub rather than in the Springbok No 5 jersey as he made a mess of the Stormers lineouts when the two teams met in Super Rugby.

Du Toit of course won’t be part of the WP challenge but there will be pressure on WP captain Chris van Zyl and the best Province forward in the Currie Cup, JD Schickerling, to reverse what happened in Durban in May and rectify the errors of Johannesburg. It will be a tall order as the Sharks have been the best pack in the competition by some distance and with all the rain that is hanging around the KZN coast at the moment the underfoot conditions are likely to be heavy.



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