The question on everybody’s lips after two games in the second round of this year’s Currie Cup is the same: “How good are Western Province really?”In a competition like this, you need to take your chances when they come and in this respect, at least, Luke Watson’s charges have been superb the last two weeks. Against the Sharks, they put in a superb performance throughout to deny the Durban boys any momentum whatsoever and again this weekend, their forwards really stood up – after a poor start – to give the Bulls a real hiding.
What is really key, of course, is that Province have now faced both the Sharks and the Bulls twice each, during the understrength phase of the competition. There’s very little doubt that WP currently have the strongest squad in the Currie Cup – I say currently, because one feels they may struggle to live with either the Sharks or the Bulls once those sides have their not inconsiderable number of Bok representatives back in the fold.
You have to play what’s in front of you on the day, though, and in doing so, Province have set themselves up beautifully for a home semi-final. They have a potential banana-peel fixture at home to the Cheetahs this week, though, and Naka Drotske’s team are playing virtual knock-out rugby each weekend; they know that one more defeat (which would add to the four they started the season with) will all but put paid to their semi-final ambitions. Should Province be able to beat the Cheetahs this weekend, then an away encounter in Johannesburg is about the only thing standing between them and a home semi-final.
It’s a wonderful position to be in.
The Sharks, currently in top spot, but clinging pretty precariously by virtue of superior points difference, will know that they really do need to win in Pretoria this weekend to keep the pressure up on Province. The latter still have 15 “bankable” points coming up, with the Leopards away and Boland and Griquas at home still coming up. The Sharks have already played one of their “gimmes”, so will need to find a try-scoring bonus against one of the big guns somewhere along the way, lest Province pip them at the post. With the Cheetahs and Lions yet to visit ABSA Stadium, the Sharks, who should have their Boks back for those games, should really be targeting maximum points in both fixtures.
The team that’s suddenly starting to look like they may be at a cross-roads is the Bulls, having now lost two games in succession – admittedly away from home against top opposition. They have a run of MUCH easier games coming up, though, making this weekend’s clash against the Sharks their biggest remaining hurdle, apart from a home game against the desperate Cheetahs in a few weeks’ time. They will, of course, be at full strength for that game.
So, for Province fans, there is much to be optimistic about, particularly given the fact that their really tough games are behind them. They should be hoping that the Bulls give the Sharks a real klap at Loftus, in order to open up a handy gap at the top of the log. They’ll need all the luck they can get, though, against whichever of these teams they face in the knock-outs.Tweet