Cape Town - They have a mountain to climb but Western Province coach John Dobson is convinced his men can still win the Currie Cup trophy they last claimed in 2014.
Last year’s beaten finalists look out of it at present as they languish in the lower half of the log after three defeats, the most recent of which was a humiliating reverse against the Golden Lions at Emirates Airlines Park last Friday night.
However, Dobson has scoffed at suggestions that his team are now out of the Currie Cup race.
“What you have to take into account is that some of the teams competing for semifinal places still have to play each other, and that means one of them will drop games and log points,” said Dobson.
“For instance the Cheetahs are playing the Lions, the Lions and the Sharks will be clashing too in the coming weeks, and the Bulls play Griquas. Those are all teams that are challenging us for semi-final places and those that we are in a tussle with for a top four spot have lost two games. So they will fall back to three defeats, like us, if they lose.
“I’ve looked at it, and the task we face is simple – we have to chase 15 log points in our remaining three games. That might be difficult, particularly when we go to Kimberley the weekend after this one, but it is definitely achievable. If we get 15 points, then we will be in the semifinals and then anything can happen. We still believe we can do it and are confident we can turn it around.”
The other teams that WP play in the run in to the end of the league phase are the Pumas and the Boland Cavaliers, with both matches being played at Newlands, where the hosts shouldn’t have too much trouble picking up a maximum five log points. So it all really comes down to next week’s trip to Kimberley, where WP are going to have to ensure they have corrected what went wrong when they conceded 58 points to the Lions.
With a score like that, it wasn’t surprising to learn that defence was the only aspect of the game that WP worked on at the start of the build-up week to the Pumas clash.
“Obviously our defence was desperately disappointing, and we had a good long session yesterday (Monday) where the emphasis was returning to the basics and working on that. I thought it went really well and the guys are feeling a lot more confident.
“But you have to remember that when we played the Cheetahs at home, even though we lost the game, we did score three tries to two. And against a Sharks team that I thought played really well against us, we managed to score five tries to two. We did well to keep the Sharks out in that game, and a defence coach doesn’t become a bad coach in seven days.”
According to Dobson, there were simple and silly mistakes that were made in Johannesburg that led to the scoring avalanche against his team, and in particular, the defence of the kick-offs has required attention this week.
“They scored four first half tries effectively off our restarts. Just before halftime we had fought our way back to 23-13 and were coming back into the game. We (the coaches) left our box and headed to the change-room but by the time we got there two quick tries had been scored and suddenly it was 37-13. There were elementary errors, and some relatively freakish tries scored against us from a long way out. So I am not too concerned.”
What should be a concern though for WP is the way they are having to make excuses about their defensive effort, something that was a strength in the years when the Stormers regularly made the semi-finals of Super Rugby. The hard work put in on Monday might not be put to the test either this week, as the Pumas have lost all their games and tend to have a lot of tries scored against them rather than themselves bothering the scoreboard operators.
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