Western Province coach John Dobson says his side went off-book in their 35-32 extra-time semi-final victory against the Blue Bulls at Newlands. DYLAN JACK reports.
In a thrilling clash, Province were a missed conversion away from a stunning loss to a side they thrashed at Loftus Versfeld a week before.
The Bulls came at the home side from the get-go and led 17-15 at half-time, before enforcing extra-time via a late try from centre Dylan Sage.
However, early in the second period of extra-time, SP Marais stepped up to slot his seventh penalty and spare Provinces blushes.
Dobson, who spoke in the build-up to the match about his side expecting a harsh test from the Bulls, said Province did not play according to how they had planned.
‘That was tough. I have got absolutely no doubt [it will help in the final],’ Dobson said. ‘I did say in the week we wanted to be stress-tested but I didn’t mean quite that. [A score of] 19-12 could have been a nice stress test, not extra-time.
‘But I think we learned a hell of a lot from today. Maybe from a couple of errors of selection and the kicking game, which was poor. I said in the week the Bulls would keep the ball and I think we must prevent that by linespeed [on defence] or stealing the ball better from their breakdown.
‘Our plan was to be more direct. We tried to force it. There was a bit of pressure, which may have been my fault, we wanted to play this kind of rugby and we maybe freestyled a bit too much – in fact I know we did.
‘We would get to the 15 and bring it back into the defence so we did not get those situations where we have SP and Trokkie [Juarno Augustus] blind getting those passes away. We did not stick to the plan, certainly in terms of the territory game. ‘
Dobson added that despite the pressure of having to face an extra 20 minutes of playing, his charges were composed in the face of their biggest challenge yet.
‘I went onto the field [at full-time] and they were entirely calm. They just breathed in, breathed out, realised they had to play the territory, get the penalty and that is exactly what happened. It says a lot – and I know [captain] Chris [van Zyl] wasn’t on – about the leadership in this group.’
Province move on to face the Sharks in the final and with a couple of players, including scrumhalf Paul de Wet, struggling with niggles from the brutal north-south derby, Dobson said there would be a couple of changes for the title-decider.
‘We are going to have to look at recovery. We have a fair amount of reserve strength that we can tweak things. Paul [de Wet] is a red call, but the good news is that Jano [Vermaak] is 99% back next week, which will make a big difference to our team.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images