DHL Western Province wrapped up the league phase of their 2015 Absa Currie Cup season with a clinical 45-14 win over the EP Kings at DHL Newlands on Friday, a big confidence booster for the defending champions ahead of the play-offs.
Going into their final league match of 2015, DHL WP – who had already sealed a place in the semifinals some three weeks ago – still had an outside chance of grabbing a home semifinal.
However, the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ one-point win over the Pumas – at the same time as DHL WP’s six-try win over the Kings – means Province will now travel to Loftus Versfeld for a mouth-watering North-South semifinal clash next weekend.
“In some ways we got our confidence back after the Lions game,” DHL WP head coach John Dobson told the www.wprugby.com website on Friday night, after his team’s seventh win this season. “This is by no means a bad Kings side, but I thought we never really looked in trouble against them.
“Also, at one stage I had everyone protected; Notshe was off, Wilco Louw was off (until Oli Kebble went off), Bongi Mbonambi sat on the bench for a while, Nic Groom too, Rob du Preez had a decent break and Johnny Kotze was sitting in the stands and, of course, Seabelo Senatla didn’t play either.
“So, by the second half to have ten of our starters for next week off the field and to still win well against a team that has fought hard this season… I am certainly pleased with that.”
Looking ahead to the play-offs, however, coach Dobson has highlighted a few key areas for improvement.
“Our ball security is not where it should be… a lot of ball is bobbing around there (still),” he said. “That’s a concern, still, but other areas were a lot better.
“The fact remains is that we need to get the ball through some phases if we want to win the Absa Currie Cup and we didn’t get through nearly enough against the Kings.
“Our breakdown is also still a bit inaccurate,” he added. “We need to be meaner with our carries. I am happy with where our pack is, but, I would say those key areas remain our breakdown and getting through the phases.”
Dobson revealed that the likes of flanker Rynhardt Elstadt, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, centre Johnny Kotze, winger Seabelo Senatla and fullback Cheslin Kolbe would all be considered for selection next weekend, having missed the Kings match because of injury, but hooker Scarra Ntubeni and Chris Cloete remain unavailable.
However, prop Oli Kebble took a knock against the Kings, with Dobson revealing: “Oli tweaked his ankle. He is of vital importance to us as we move into the play-offs. His growth this season, especially at tighthead, has been absolutely massive and he is an important player for us.
“On the whole, I think we know our team for next week,” added the DHL WP boss when asked about his selection plans to face the Blue Bulls.
“We have some tough selection choices, especially at centre and in our back three, so to get that right will be tricky and, of course, important.”
When asked to sum up his team’s 2015 league campaign ahead of the play-offs, as Province look to defend their Absa Currie Cup title – despite having to play away, Dobson admitted: “Last week (against the Lions) was a big knock for us. I thought the team was taking nice shape (until then)…
“But, I think, our main job as Currie Cup coaches these days is to bring guys through and the growth of Oli Kebble, Notshe, Godlen Masimla, Rob du Preez and Johnny Kotze shows we have fulfilled our job in some ways as they will go on and play some good, bigger rugby next year.
“I must be honest, however, it doesn’t sit too well with me (not playing in a home semifinal). We knew that first half against the Cheetahs (in August) would be an issue for us and it’s certainly come back to haunt us finishing just a few points behind the Bulls on the log.
“We have had a tough draw and some tough injuries at times (this season), yet we are still in contention to win the Currie Cup. But, like I said, bringing some of these guys through will hopefully help us next year,” concluded Dobson, who has headed up a new-look DHL WP coaching team in 2015 alongside Dawie Snyman (attack), Paul Treu (defence) and Vlok Cilliers (kicking).