Cape Town - The Western Province leadership is honest enough to admit that the team has probably under-performed so far this season but they are confident that they are ready to peak in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Golden Lions at Newlands.
In terms of talent on the team sheet, WP probably finished where they should have been expected to on the final log. They suffered more disruption to their squad sheet than the Sharks did when switching from Super Rugby to the domestic competition, but less than the Lions. They have more talent available to them than the Cheetahs, who were weakened by PRO14 commitments, and the Blue Bulls are in a transitional phase.
However, the Province brains trust believe they made heavier weather of clinching a home semi-final than they should have, with it eventually coming down to them having to win the final league game against the Sharks in Durban to secure a top two finish.
“To be honest we still haven’t found a solution to the lack of consistency that has plagued us this season,” said coach John Dobson after naming his team for Saturday’s home play-off fixture.
“If you look at the statistics they paint a very different story to the ordinary season we have experienced in the wins and losses column. We lost five games in the regular season and that is too many for a team of this talent, and yet we were top in most of the statistics. For instance the top five most dominant tacklers were from WP, our defence was near the top and so were our attack statistics.
“We were really good in some of our games. For instance I think people now have a better idea of the quality of the Bulls side we beat in Pretoria. We had a knack during the season of playing really poorly and then bouncing back, such as when we lost to Griquas and then scored more than 40 points in the first half of the next game against the Bulls.”
Skipper Chris van Zyl is hopeful though that the WP inconsistency was put to death at Kings Park last Saturday, with Province coming back from a 10 point deficit to comprehensively beat the best team in the competition this season.
“The overwhelming feeling building up to the Sharks game was that we were well below our potential but we won well in Durban and it was a result that maybe came at the right time for us,” said Van Zyl.
“But while that win has given us confidence, we were also very aware that the Sharks had nothing to play for. So we are also being realistic and under no illusions that we face a very different kind of challenge this week.”
It is a challenge that Van Zyl feels his team will be up for.
“We know the Boks are back for the Lions and that will make a difference but we are ready for any eventuality. It is good to be playing at Newlands. We set ourselves the target of playing a home semi-final and final at Newlands because it does give us a massive lift to play at home, and we are hoping that will help us produce our best on Saturday.
“After our recent loss at Ellis Park we also feel we have a point to prove to ourselves. We were very angry with ourselves for the way we played that game. The players knew they had messed it up and had under-performed. It was not an occasion where the coaches even had to say anything. We felt we had let them down.
“There was plenty that we took from that game. Although we know it is a different Lions team with their Boks back, we felt we missed an opportunity in Johannesburg and we know we are better than we showed in that game. We also know where we made mistakes and how to rectify them.”
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