Western Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni says the shortened version of the Currie Cup has forced the team to up their game. DYLAN JACK reports.
This year’s tournament has a single-round format, which sees teams play each other either home or away.
While Ntubeni’s coach John Dobson has been an outspoken critic of the change, Ntubeni thought it might not necessarily be all bad.
‘With the shorter competition, it is always in the back of our minds. It is not like previously where we went up to Griquas and lost and thought we still have time to catch up.
‘Every week we are trying to raise our standards and prepare well because we know we can’t afford to slip up.’
Province appear to have all but sealed a place in the top four following their 65-38 thumping of the Lions in Johannesburg.
Ntubeni says they targeted the Lions forwards and were confident their backline could do the rest should the opportunities appear.
‘[The Lions have] quite a dangerous backline. So as a forward pack we really wanted to try and dominate up front. We struggled a bit when it came to the maul, but the scrums were OK. We really emphasised our work rate.
‘We know our backs can attack and we knew that if we try and bully them our backs can finish the game for us. We saw the tries that they scored so it was really pleasing for a forward pack that we worked hard and our backs finished for us.’
Another change to this year’s tournament has been the introduction of rolling substitutions, following the trial of the law in the Provincial Rugby Challenge.
Ntubeni says that while the change may not work for him, it can still be used to good effect, especially when travelling to the highveld.
‘Everyone is different. Some players would love it. But I guy like me can’t come off and go back on. It depends on the different types of players and the coaches and how they want to manage the players.
‘It can help with injuries as there is a lot of rugby being played now. If you can manage the bodies it is a lot better for the players.’
After an injury-ridden year, Ntubeni is happy to be back playing consistently in a positive team environment.
‘It is nice to get an opportunity again and play in such an awesome team. There are no egos in this team, everyone works hard for each other and our coaches are backing us. It is nice to be in an environment like this and get a lot of game time again.’
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images