A “DESPERATE” Western Province are banking on their youthful exuberance to turn around their poor Vodacom Cup record this year, starting on Saturday in the quarter-final against the Golden Lions at City Park in Crawford (3.30pm kickoff).
WP have never won the title nor reached the final, and were last in the semi-finals in 2008 under coach Jerome Paarwater. They have reached the quarter-finals in each of the last three seasons, but again came unstuck when they lost to the Sharks XV 21-19 at Newlands.
Current coach John Dobson told the Cape Times yesterday after practice in Bellville that his unbeaten team, depleted at times due to the injury-related call-ups to the Stormers, have a great chance of taking WP to the semi-finals on Saturday.
“We will probably try to be a bit more relaxed about it, because these things can become bogeys quickly. Gary Gold’s team were unbeaten in 2007, and they lost to the Leopards in the quarter-finals at Newlands. Last year, we were also unbeaten and lost in the quarter-finals. So, in a sense, we’ve got to be careful not to put the coach’s issues, which we’ve got, on to the players,” he said.
“Our record in this competition is remarkably poor for this union, so our team are desperate to do well.”
And the key factor for Dobson is the relative youth in his side compared to previous seasons. With Stormers coach Allister Coetzee boasting a number of youngsters in his squad as well, Dobson has had to use a number of club players with several recent juniors.
There is also some experience in the shape of halfbacks Nic Groom and Demetri Catrakilis, wing Danie Poolman, centre Marcel Brache, captain Nick Fenton-Wells and flank Rohan Kitshoff who have all played regular Currie Cup rugby, and a Springbok in Hilton Lobberts.
“What is different is that last year, we had guys who were finishing their careers. It was JD Moller, Anton van Zyl, Adriaan Fondse – all great players, but you could never say that their careers were on the rise,” Dobson said.
“Now, every guy here wants to prove himself, coming up and getting into the Stormers. One way to get a contract, to move through, is to win the Vodacom Cup.”
While WP will be boosted by Poolman’s return from the Stormers side, along with Deon Carstens, Scarra Ntubeni, Berton Klaasen and Don Armand, Dobson is still awaiting clarity on star centre JP du Plessis’s availability, which is dependent on whether Jean de Villiers recovers from his wrist injury for the Stormers’ clash against the Cheetahs next week.
POSSIBLE WP TEAM
15 Kurt Coleman, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 JP du Plessis/Michael van der Spuy, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Ederies Arendse, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nick Fenton-Wells (capt), 7 Don Armand, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sidney Tobias, 1 Schalk Ferreira. Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Tyrone Holmes, 20 Ricky Schroder, 21 Marcel Brache, 22 Michael van der Spuy/Damian de Allende