Baptism to the big time

Vodacom Western Province fullback Gio Aplon has called for more focus from his young colleagues, as many of them prepare for the biggest game of their careers.

Aplon, who trained for the first time today after missing last week’s game through injury, is one of a host of WP players who have never been in an Absa Currie Cup semi-final. Although they will be pleased with the third-place finish in the league and the reinvention of their adventurous style of play, this is the moment they have been waiting for.

“We can look back at the season and honestly say we have played well, but I think that doesn’t matter now,” he told keo.co.za. “These are the semi-finals, and if you make one mistake, it could cost you the game.”

Province have not made it past the semi-finals since they won the Absa Currie Cup in 2001. They subsequently failed to make the playoffs in 2002 and 2003, and then bombed out twice against Free State in 2004 and 2005.

There have been moments of brilliance this season, but there have also been a few instances that show up the lack of experience in the side. Saturday’s match will be a true evaluation of their collective mental character.

“There have been a few times this year where we slacked off and were not clinical enough,” confessed Aplon. “But everybody understands what is required in this game against the Bulls.”

Aplon is one man the hosts will be looking to shut down quickly, as none would have forgotten how he destroyed them in the 25-13 home victory in Cape Town, scoring two cracking tries. But Aplon was wary to suggest a repeat performance, as WP are no longer the unknown quantity that they were in the earlier stages of the competition.

“They may have lost to us twice this season, but they will now know what to expect. They know how we like to play the game, and will plan for it accordingly.”

“They have also been playing some great rugby in the past few weeks, and on their homeground, they are going to be the favourites.”

While the talented No 15 gave the opposition their due, he does believe that having triumphed over the Bulls twice in a season will provide WP with some confidence.

“I have a great belief in our pack. They have scrummed well all season, and got the better of the Bulls in the previous meetings. It’s going to be a great game.”

By Jon Cardinelli

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