Kobus van der Merwe insists that Vodacom Western Province will forgo the conservatism often prescribed for a semi-final, and stick to their adventurous game plan.
The inclusion of Gerrie Britz (who has played lock for the entire season), on the blindside flank may suggest otherwise, but the WP coach confirmed the need of a solid platform for their potent backs to fire. Britz will bring a lot to the physical aspect of the game and provide more bulk in the tight.
“We will go out there and continue to play the wide game and be as creative as possible, but to do that we have to at least match them upfront,” Van der Merwe said.
“We’ve devoted a lot of our time this week to mauling and countermauling, as this is where the Bulls are strong. This is why it is great to have a guy like Francois [Van der Merwe] back in the team, as he has been effective in this area all season.”
Van der Merwe emphasised the need to start off well against the Bulls, as they are a team who don’t often lose when they get going. The Vodacom Cheetahs learnt this last week, as despite an exciting comeback, the gap was just too big to close for the champs.
“It’s going to be a great challenge this weekend, and the first 30 minutes are going to crucial. In the past few games they have started strongly, and that has often made the difference. The game against the Sharks is a good example, as the Bulls took the game away from them in that first half hour.”
The WP coach believes that he has the right mix of players to do the business against the Bulls, and although this game is the most important of the season, it should be played in the spirit that has characterised the 2006 campaign.
“The key to our play is our positivity, and we must remain positive and utilise the same approach that has made us successful this season. To get to this stage and not have a full go would be the wrong option.”
Van der Merwe also expressed an interest in the second semi-final of the weekend, namely the Cheetahs versus the Sharks. If Province can pull off a victory at Loftus, and the Sharks win in Bloemfontein, the final installment of the 2006 Absa Currie Cup will play out at Newlands.
“I really hope the Sharks do it. I realise they haven’t done well in Bloemfontein recently, but maybe Dick [Muir] has a trick or two up his sleeve.”
By Jon Cardinelli