Safety first for WP

Western Province want to play a more structured game in the Currie Cup this year, according to winger Zhahier Ryland.

Although WP will maintain their penchant for the running game, a lot of preparation has been done on the kicking side, and we may see a less risky approach from the Cape Town side this season.

“We will do the best we can this year, but we have identified next season as when we will really challenge for the cup,” Ryland told keo.co.za.

“We have gone with the safer approach, and have looked at getting more structure to our game. Our running on attack is still our strength, but it is important to have a good fallback plan.”

The gap in the midfield due to Bok call-ups has also given a few youngsters a great opportunity to show what they can do ahead of next year’s Super 14, the stepping stone to international selection.

Ryland missed out on Super 14 selection earlier this year. At a modest 1.80m and 80kg, many critics say that it is because he is too small.

“I’ve actually picked up 10kg since last year, and at times I feel that I’m too heavy. As for the height, I’m even taller than Bryan Habana, so I don’t see how that can be a problem.”

Ryland has also been compared to Breyton Paulse, who began at Newlands a decade ago with an even smaller bulk.

“I suppose our stories are very similar,” says Ryland, who enjoys the comparison. “But the criticism doesn’t faze me. I prefer to be the underdog.”

Ryland scored seven tries in the 2005 Currie Cup, a feat only bettered by Rayno Benjamin who scored eight. The highlight of his first full season with WP came against the Lions where he scored a hat-trick.

“That was most definitely the highlight of my career so far. A close second would be the two tries I scored against the World XV recently, as we were playing against such quality opposition. To play against guys like Carlos Spencer and Matt Burke and chat to them after the game was an invaluable experience.”

By Jon Cardinelli