Province wary of Free State’s Magic

Nineteen-year-old Robert ‘Magic’ Ebersohn has the potential to become a Springbok according to Jean de Villiers.

The Bok centre will partner Gcobani Bobo in the midfield when Province travel to Bloemfontein to face the Cheetahs this Saturday. The combination proved to be a potent one both on attack and defence during the Super 14, and on paper they’d expect to better direct opponents Meyer Bosman and Ebersohn.

But the Free State centre pairing are a unit in form, and coach Naka Drotske has reaped the benefits since starting the precocious Ebersohn against a star-studded Sharks backline in August. Bosman has been the playmaker at 12 but Ebersohn has added a much-needed edge to the Free State attack. It’s an observation that’s been made by all sectors, including that of the highest level.

“Robert Ebersohn is a very good player,” said De Villiers. “It’s strange to think that last year I was giving the Craven Week teams a talk and he was there. Now he will be playing against me in the Currie Cup.

“He’s been one of the standout players of this year’s Currie Cup and I have no doubt he’ll play for the Boks one day. He’s been great on both defence and attack – what more can you ask for? He’s also very good on the ground.”

The new WP captain wasn’t the only man to laud the young centre. Coach Allister Coetzee also spoke highly of Ebersohn and said he expected the teenager to take this opportunity against one of the better centre combinations in the country.

“I think a lot of teams froth at the mouth when they go up against WP, and having the Boks back is bound to have an even greater affect,” said Coetzee. “For Ebersohn and Bosman, I’m sure they’ll be highly motivated to know they’re going up against Jean and Bobes.”

WP need to win this weekend to ensure their play-off hopes aren’t dependent on other results. Sitting at fifth on the log, they are currently nine points below the Lions. The following games see Province playing the Valke, Griquas and Boland before hosting the Lions, but it could be a win in Bloemfontein that sets them up for play-off qualification.

De Villiers maintains WP are focused on this week’s fixture alone. Province were thumped by the Blue Bulls last Friday but morale is high considering the majority of the players coming into the team are still buzzing after the Test victory over the Wallabies.

“It was great to end [the Tri-Nations] on a high and we will be looking to carry that positve energy through. It’s also a plus when you see that 12 out of the 15 starters have played international rugby this year.

“We’ve had some good sessions so far and it has taken some time to get our structures right. I think it would be best if we take things as they come. The biggest challenge is this weekend.”

If WP do go down in Bloemfontein, De Villiers said the union will not neglect the bigger picture. The Absa Currie Cup is, after all, an opportunity to build towards the Super 14.

“I’m not saying we are looking to the Super 14 already, but if we don’t make the play-offs it is important to build some momentum for next year’s tournament. We’ve got to ensure we perform week in and week out,” said De Villiers.

By Jon Cardinelli