DHL WP show Dobson ‘guts’

PUBLISHED: July 8, 2024

Director of Rugby John Dobson looks back on DHL Western Province’s Carling Currie Cup opener at DHL Stadium, and the fight they showed at the end that will be key as they face another big challenge in Bloemfontein this weekend.

DHL Western Province scored four tries and secured two bonus points in a narrow defeat against the Vodacom Bulls on Sunday in very wet conditions, but the final result must still have been frustrating.

‘We showed some fight at the end after a disappointing first half. I expected a bit more despite the conditions, because the conditions were the same for both teams. In the first half we didn’t work hard enough or stamp our authority, and we tried to force a few offloads and passes. It’s in our DNA to work hard. But a lot of our guys haven’t played in a while and the conditions were extraordinary, so I can’t be too hard on them. We showed some guts at the end, and got two points.’

Jean-Luc du Plessis scored an impressive try and played a key role in setting up Angelo Davids for our third touchdown. Your thoughts on the playmaker’s performance?

‘I thought JL was outstanding, what Jean-Luc showed against the Vodacom Bulls was really important for us. At No. 10 or No. 12 he was a calming influence and was a key game-driver. What he gives us in terms of selection is not a headache but some good depth when Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Manie Libbok return from international duty with the Springboks.’

You named three club players in your matchday 23 to face the Vodacom Bulls, as part of long-term plan to develop a pathway as well as grow depth at the franchise.

‘We’ve taken a different approach to this year’s Carling Currie Cup than the other unions. [Long-term absentees like] Keke Morabe, Ruhan Nel and Seabelo Senatla will all be back for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and hopefully play a game or two at the back-end of the Carling Currie Cup. A guy like Blomme [Clayton Blommetjies] is possibly due back in a week or two, which we could do with. But this competition is about giving our young players game time and development, and I wish it wasn’t all about silverware. Willie Engelbrecht and Adré Smith look like they could be out for a while now, with a dislocation and hamstring injury respectively, so we’ll be looking at more club players to bolster our squad.’

Turning your attention to the challenge the Toyota Cheetahs will present at Toyota Stadium this Saturday, what do you expect against a Free State team that put 12 tries past the NovaVit Griffons in Round 1 of the competition?

‘It’s going to be a much different-looking game to the Vodacom Bulls match, and it’ll be good for us, and for our exciting players like Wandisile Simelane and Luke Burger – we’ll be able to get the ball through our hands more and play a different style of rugby. A tough fixture but still a good opportunity for the team, and for those players who need more minutes on the field to help step up their conditioning.’