Cape Town - Western Province coach Allister Coetzee is not normally one to be too bold, and would probably normally talk about a lowly team like Border as a “tough challenge”, but after making his team announcement for the Absa Currie Cup semifinal he departed from the usual script.
According to the supersport.com website, clearly not concerned that his words could be used as motivation by the Golden Lions, who shocked a full strength Province team that was expected to canter to victory in a similar semifinal two seasons ago, Coetzee made no bones about the fact this is a game his team should be expected to win.
“We have struggled to win home play-off games in the past, but then all teams struggle when they are young. When you lose you learn from it, and the two Super Rugby semifinal defeats to the Crusaders and Sharks are experiences we have learned from,” said Coetzee.
“I think we now have the control and the experience, plus the maturity, to deal with the occasion, and to embrace it. There is more pressure at home, as we have particularly staunch support at times and it brings massive expectation. But we have a more mature team than we had before, and we know what it feels like to lose at home at this stage. It is the worst feeling in your life.
“But we have leadership and unlike during this past Super Rugby season, we have everyone available, to the point where it was tough to leave certain really good players out of the group. We are blessed to have Brandas (WP captain Deon Fourie), Schalk (Burger) and Jean de Villiers all in the group. You should never be over-confident, but this really is one for us to lose.
“You should never be over-confident, but we’ve had a great week of preparation and really have no excuse not to go out there and make our supporters proud by achieving our objective of securing a home final for them.”
Coetzee is particularly pleased with the strength he has available to make an impact from the bench, something that was not there earlier in the competition.
“We are really spoilt for choice at the moment. In the first half of the competition we couldn’t rely on the bench to make an impact as we had a lot of injuries. But we have a really strong bench now and if your bench becomes part of your tactical plan, then you are in a really good position.
“On the bench for this game we have several players who have done really well for us during the season. Michael Rhodes has been in good form and can come on at lock or flank. He has been carrying the ball particularly well and can make a great impact if introduced later in the game. Juan de Jongh is another player who can make a big impact, and of course Scalla (Burger) has made an impact in every game and really lifts the players when he comes onto the field. Hopefully we will be able to give him more time this week.”
But while Coetzee is exuding confidence, that does not mean the Lions are being underestimated, and assistant coach Robbie Fleck paid the Johannesburg team a confident when he spoke about how dangerous they are at attacking off turn-over ball.
“They are probably the best attacking team in the competition in that situation and we know we have to respect them and limit their opportunities,” said Fleck.
“We just have to ensure that we stay patient. The Lions do give you opportunities, and we’ve got to put pressure on them through our structures. We can’t give them turn-over possession or put in poor kicks as we know they will punish us if we do.”