Currie Cup

Why WP can’t rest on laurels

2014-08-31 21:03
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Few would deny that up-tempo Western Province, last year’s runners-up, look favourites for the 2014 Currie Cup title at this point.

There is every chance that at the midway turn in ordinary-season play next weekend, they will only have consolidated their position at the top of the table and remain the only side with a 100 percent win record from five matches.

That is because Friday night at Newlands sees a clash between the leaders and the EP Kings, currently the wooden-spoon outfit with a mere one point – it would be a real turn-up for the books if the visitors come away victorious.

As things stand after an encouragingly high-quality round four, Province have a three-point cushion over the second-placed Lions, who restored winning ways with a comprehensive enough 41-22 triumph over the Kings in Port Elizabeth, even if the willing Kings were in the picture for generous periods.

Juan de Jongh’s side overcame a tough hurdle by seeing off an improved Blue Bulls side by five points in a thrill-a-minute Loftus spectacle: the 2-2 statistic in the try column tells you everything about the ding-dong nature of the clash.

The Capetonians will mark the win down as a satisfying achievement, even if the Bulls weren’t exactly a form team going into it – remember they had not yet been beaten either in Super Rugby or the Currie Cup at Loftus this year.

The home side were always in the contest, occasionally giving WP some angst at scrum-time and making good yardage through committed ball-carriers like Dean Greyling, Jacques du Plessis and Grant Hattingh.

But the blue-and-whites maintained their new-found prowess for striking lethally and with relish from just about any position on the park.

Their two tries were absolute beauties and it was fitting that they went to two members of their majestic back three, the whippet-like talent Seabelo Senatla and emerging right wing powerhouse Kobus van Wyk.

But if Province are probably going to be sitting very pretty at the halfway point next weekend, they cannot afford any complacency if they wish to retain that log-topping status to the knockout phase.

Their “second half” itinerary is arguably more landmine-infested than the first, given that three of the five fixtures will be away, and two of them are genuine toughies against the Lions and Pumas respectively.

The former clash is the sort that might just see the table lead change hands, if the Lions can avenge their Newlands loss recently, whilst the Pumas, unbeaten at Mbombela Stadium, reminded strongly on Friday night that they have absolutely no respect for reputation as they knocked over the defending champion Sharks with a bonus point into the bargain.

WP also still have to face the Sharks at Newlands on the final day of ordinary season, a repeat in many respects of last season’s final when the visitors seized back the silverware from their great coastal rivals.

Jimmy Stonehouse’s Pumas occupy a notably lofty third on the log at present, although if there is one tempering factor – something to interest sides from the lower regions like the Bulls and Cheetahs – it is that they have played only one match away from their fortress thus far so will spend much of the next few weeks on the road (four of six remaining matches).

The fourth-placed Sharks will expect to bounce back from the Nelspruit humbling by seeing off still-winless Griquas at Kings Park on Saturday.

But are they properly addressing the relative impotence of their ball-in-hand play, something that has arguably spilled over from the closing stages of their once-budding Super Rugby 2014 campaign?

Coach Brad Macleod-Henderson seemed a little intransigent on that front in his post-game assessment on Friday, being quoted as saying: “Our set-piece struggled a bit and our defence was probably not where we would have liked it to be ... those two areas we will be working hard with during the week.”

One or two others needing “TLC” do come to mind ...

Next weekend’s fixtures (home teams first):

Friday, September 5

Western Province v EP Kings - 19:10

Saturday, September 6

Free State Cheetahs v Pumas - 15:00
Sharks v Griquas - 17:05
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions - 19:10

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    wp  |  currie cup  |  cape town  |  rugby

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