Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Coetzee expects braver rugby
Johannesburg - Western Province coach Allister Coetzee expects both teams to play braver rugby than you would normally expect in a Currie Cup final – and he says the domestic season decider in Durban will be decided by who wins what he calls ‘the battle of the gain line’.
The Sharks and WP were the top attacking teams in the Absa Currie Cup, and while finals tend to be won by the teams that play more conservative rugby, Coetzee noted that the Sharks employed a brave approach in beating the Blue Bulls in the semi-final.
And he has no intention of changing too much in the style that has seen WP score some great tries in the past couple of matches.
“There might be some tweaks here and there, but it would surprise me if either of the teams went into this game with any radical departure from the approach that has got them thus far,” said Coetzee.
“There is a tendency to be more conservative in a final, and I reckon that there will be a big focus on the basics. This is not really a time to be introducing too much that is new, for a final is the wrong time for players to be trying out new things.”
With six days to go to kickoff, it is still hard to decide who will go into this match as favourites – and neither side is desperate to take on the tag. However Coetzee said that he was relaxed and that the extra week to prepare had been a good thing.
“Everything is a lot less rushed than it was for instance before the Super 14 final against the Bulls in Soweto. Last week we could have a proper think about things, do all our tactical planning, and now this week we are starting to put it into practice on the training field,” said the coach.
“We had a good meeting and training session today (Monday), and there was complete buy-in from everyone in the squad about how we are going to approach this game.”
Coetzee has massive respect for the Sharks, who he knows will be hard to beat at a venue where they haven’t lost since February.
He believes the key to their game is momentum, and stopping that momentum, by limiting their effectiveness at the gain line, is going to be a big part of the WP quest to halt the home-side’s charge for victory.
“They will probably see it the same way – both of these teams are sides that will be dangerous if they get momentum, and that is why I think this game is going to be decided by the battle of the gain line,” said Coetzee.
“The Sharks have great ball carriers, and Willem Alberts plays a crucial role for them there and he has had a really good season since moving to Durban from Johannesburg. Keegan Daniel is also in great form, and Lwazi Mvovo is a dangerous runner.
"All those guys are important to their quest for momentum, and if we do allow them to get momentum, the Sharks could be unstoppable. So we have to stop them at the gain line.
“So defence is going to be vital, not just in stopping them but also in forcing the mistakes that maybe we can exploit to score off. The Sharks are a very physical team, and like most finals, this game will have a massive physical component to it. The breakdowns and collisions and the contact areas in general will be where this game is won and lost.
“Against a side like the Sharks you want to look after the ball when you have it so I don’t reckon that kicking will be a big element in this final.”
Coetzee was happy to report that all the Springboks who were part of the national training camp at the weekend have returned to WP feeling fresh, fit and motivated for Saturday.
“We don’t have any injury niggles which is good. You don’t want that in the week of a final,” said Coetzee.