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Rugby | Currie Cup

WP seek that ruthless edge



Western Province will be hoping to retain the ruthless edge that saw them come from behind to convincingly beat the Sharks in the last league game when they host the Golden Lions in Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal.

The two teams met in a crucial league game in Johannesburg just 10 days ago and was a good example of one of the weak points displayed by WP this season, that being the inability to put teams away.

The Cape side had the advantage for most of the first hour and had several chances to make the game safe but somehow always conspired to allow their opponents back into the game.

It is something that WP were guilty of against the Sharks in the first-round game at Newlands, where they squandered a good lead before giving away the advantage in the second half, and also against the Pumas in Nelspruit, where the 'Streeptruie' looked completely rudderless towards the end, as they did in Johannesburg.

But it has never been more apparent than it was against the Lions, who came back in the last quarter to win by nine points after trailing at the hour mark by 10. In other words, the Lions scored 19 unanswered points.

In the Durban game it was a rare reversal of that sequence for WP. They were down by 10 points at halftime and looked well beaten at that point even though they were starting to play good rugby.

However, in the second half they put it together to score 28 unanswered points before the Sharks grabbed a consolation try right at the end to bring some respectability to the final score.

“What really pleased us about the Kings Park win was that it showed us that we can shut down a game, which is something that we have struggled with this year,” said WP defence coach Norman Laker.

“Shutting down a game by taking our opportunities and being more ruthless has been one of our focus points recently. There have been a few games this season where we have been up by 10 points but then once we have taken the lead it has felt like we have taken the foot off the accelerator.

"In Durban it was different and if we are in front against the Lions we need to remember the mistakes of before and make sure we don't let them back into it. We definitely need to be more ruthless than we have been.”

MOMENTUM GUYS

You don’t get second chances in a semifinal of course, but WP are effectively getting a second chance after that recent defeat at Emirates Airlines Park.

Did that match show Province things about the Lions that they could learn from and work on in plotting the defeat of the 2015 champions?

Laker doesn’t think so.

“The return of the five Boks makes them a totally different team and make a big difference to how they play," he said.

"So we are going to focus more on ourselves and what we have to do to reverse the last result by beating them at Newlands. There are a few small things that we picked up in Johannesburg that we can work on, and also of course from last week in Durban (where WP beat the Sharks).”

The return of bustling hooker Malcolm Marx, who is fast on the way towards establishing himself as the best player in his position in world rugby, will obviously pose a big threat to Province and Laker knows that a big part of his team’s plan on Saturday will be to halt the Lions’ momentum.

But there again that is no different to most weeks.

“We will have to stop their momentum guys, but every team in the world has certain players that they look to for the establishment of momentum. What does inspire confidence for us is that we managed to keep them from scoring any tries when we played against them in the first round at Newlands.

“The Lions were very good in beating the Cheetahs last week. They really played well in that game. But that was on a different field and at altitude. We reckon they will come at us with a physical battle because of the guys they’ve got back. We’re not expecting them to be too different to the Sharks in that respect.”

Looking at his own specialist field of defence, Laker felt that the second half of the Sharks game last week was approaching the point that has been worked towards all season.

“We definitely could have improved on our first-half performance, but the second half was really good and I’d say it was close to what we have been working towards.”



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