Cape Town - Western Province have to improve their ball retention skills if they are to stand any chance against the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup clash on Saturday, coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday.
"We have to step up in terms of looking after our ball because we don't want to tackle so much," he said.
"This is one area where we will be looking to improve because it has become a concern."
Despite three consecutive victories, which included two bonus-point wins, Province have been forced to defend for long passages of play and, as a result, have made by far the most tackles to date after three rounds.
Statistics show that six Western Province players are in the top 10 for the most tackles made, Coetzee said.
"In the past few games, our counter-attacking ability and discipline has improved so now we're focused on respecting the ball when we're in possession."
Among the players with high tackle counts for the province were forwards Nizaam Carr (70), Siya Kolisi (60), Jean Kleyn (59) and Michael Rhodes (57).
"We have moved away unwittingly from playing with our own ball to playing with turn-over ball and then punishing teams.
"Siya has been outstanding at turning ball and our counter-rucking has improved."
The team's decision-making at breakdown play has been outstanding, he said.
Meanwhile, Springbok hooker Scarra Ntubeni returned to training on Monday after he was sidelined with a calf muscle injury.
Coetzee said Ntubeni should be fit to return to action in a fortnight when Province hosts the Kings at Newlands.
Centre Michael van der Spuy sat out at training nursing a tight hamstring.
Pat Howard and Jaco Taute were on standby as replacements should he not recover in time.
"Howard has been in the selection mix all along and Jaco played well when he came on."