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Rugby | SuperSport Challenge

John Dobson © BackpagePix

De ja vu win for Province

While many will have seen Western Province going unbeaten in winning the inaugural SuperSport Rugby Challenge as a first of sorts, the final against Griquas at the Florida Park Sports Grounds in Cape Town was a sense of de ja vu for their coach John Dobson.

As it turns out, Dobson not only has won the competition before – in its previous guises – he has also gone through a whole season unbeaten: “In the 2012 Vodacom Cup we didn’t lose a game. We actually played Griquas in the final then as well...”

Asked to compare the two, he said this season was the most satisfactory: “This is better, we’ve been quite compelling throughout and in 2012 there were some iffy games. We only started with six guys in November because the Stormers have quite a big training squad.

“We built something out of new guys, guys who hadn’t played before. We worked quite hard on culture because it was practically an all-new team and very few guys had been part of last year’s campaign. So that gives us quite a lot of satisfaction.”

The result was a performance in which they probably put in their best performance in the first half, mixing it up physically with the experienced and confrontational Griquas team, playing at a high tempo and keeping them guessing by shifting the ball away from contact to lead 28-0 at halftime.

“I still think we made a couple of errors in the first half, which concerned me at halftime but in terms of the width and trying to push tempo to be up by two tries after 20 minutes was ahead of what I expected,” said Dobson.

Griquas coach Peter Engledow said during that time his team’s biggest issue was quick ball: “We couldn’t generate quick ball, they contested at breakdown very well ... according to the laws. Amazingly there wasn’t one breakdown penalty against them in the first half.

“They won the breakdown and we couldn’t get fast ball, we couldn’t generate our normal attack.”

Griquas had mounted the predictable fightback in the second half, scoring 19 unanswered points in the second half, but a bit like their game against the Lions in the semifinals, it was too little too late for them.

“It was similar conditions (to Mdantsane),” he said. “There was a south easterly wind blowing and Province unfortunately got off to a great start, 28 points was a bit too much. We needed to try and at least get seven points in that first half, and ja we came back but it wasn’t good enough.”

Dobson tried to explain the regression in his side’s play after an impressive first half: “Obviously you don’t want to go into halftime and talk about defending a lead, we talked about playing and slowing the game down playing into the wind.

“But then we lost our discipline we gave away penalties and a yellow card, started playing chips and grubbers into the wind which didn’t pay off and gave them possession. They’re also a quality side, they stood up and you could see that glint of a little bit of belief after they scored their first try.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the two sides almost have two different expectations, what with Griquas a fully formed Currie Cup side and Province a composite team.

“The competition’s been fantastic for giving guys an opportunity to play and for us to try a few things,” said Engledow. “We used all our squad, which is fantastic, but we also badly wanted to win this as well. We’ve obviously got the Currie Cup ahead, that’s going to be vicious as well so we’re going to enjoy tonight, have a few drinks, relax and the boys are off resting tomorrow – we start again on Tuesday.”

Dobson was a little cut up about the possibility of what they’ve built being broken up: “The thing is trying to keep the really good ones together to go into the Currie Cup. This can’t be the end goal, they have to contribute to the Currie Cup team and the Stormers going forward.

“To be honest with the Stormers doing well in Super Rugby, this team is going to go and play what is basically the Cheetahs’ Super Rugby team in two weeks’ time. That will be very tough for us in the Currie Cup.”


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