Western Province coach John Dobson says their France tour will allow the squad to bond after a list of players the union wants to sell was leaked to the media. DYLAN JACK reports.
The list includes experienced campaigners such Chris van Zyl, who will captain the team again this year, and Scarra Ntubeni.
‘We had a chat about that [story] this morning,’ said Dobson on Monday. ‘Going off to Montpellier tomorrow will be a good panacea of energy for what came out of the process.’
Province will face French second division club Narbonne on Saturday, before taking on giants Montpellier on Thursday, 16 August.
‘I don’t think you are going to get better match practice than that,’ added Dobson. ‘We couldn’t go from the Stormers’ last game, in July, to six weeks without a game. To get quality friendlies here is tricky, so to go there and play what is probably going to be a team with Jannie [du Plessis], Bissie [Bismarck du Plessis] and Jan Serfontein nine days before our first Curre Cup game is perfect.
‘It will also work as a team-builder. There hasn’t been a lot of good news over the last while so this will takes us away and we can build as a team.’
Dobson said that certain players on the list could use the opportunity to further develop their games with the Pro14 in mind.
‘That list that was published was never, to my mind, a case of these are the guys we don’t want. In some cases, these are guys that might benefit from Pro14. A great case in point is Craig Barry. We left him out after we lost in Nelspruit last year, now he has children named after him in Bloemfontein and has played Super Rugby. This time last year he was uncontracted.
‘With the crazy Currie Cup format that we have got this year with just six games, if you are sitting with a squad of 44 players, how do you develop a scrumhalf if you have three or four scrumhalves and have to give them all game time with six games?’
Dobson added that he expected a harder Currie Cup campaign, with the format putting more pressure on teams to win.
‘The single-round competition is part of the ongoing [issues] hammering nails into the coffin of the Currie Cup. I do think that the draw is tough on us. For the five years I have been in charge, there have been five different formats. It is hard for a competition to maintain integrity like that.
‘The draw is tough when you have the Bulls and Lions – the two altitude teams – away from home. So I think we have a tough draw. We have the Cheetahs while they still have their Pro14 guys, as our first game, and if you want a home final you have to go unbeaten. It is going to be a tough one for us.’
However, the coach is confident that he has the squad to do well in the competition.
‘With the injuries and the traumas that the Stormers went through on their tours, a lot of guys got Super Rugby experience. Even guys like Johan du Toit or Josh Stander, and the way they played against the Sharks. We are actually quite optimistic about the squad.
‘We are quite thin at 10 potentially, with Jean-Luc’s [du Plessis] injury and if Damian Willemse stays with the Springboks, which we hope he does. There are going to be some players released from the Boks, which will strengthen us in the last three rounds of the Currie Cup which, if you include the playoffs, are after the Boks’ last game [of the Rugby Championship]. The back-end of this tournament could be a great leveller as the Currie Cup normally is.
‘I am very confident with the quality of player that we have got there. If you chose the 1st XV, it is a strong side.’
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images