The men from Potch are finding life difficult in the Currie Cup but coach Chaka Willemse believes things will swing their way in the second round of the competition.
The Leopards are rooted to the bottom of the log after failing to secure a single point in their opening four games. However, they have had a tough opening schedule to deal with as the bulk of their matches have been away.
‘If you look at our first four games, we played three on the road,’ Willemse told keo.co.za, ‘Not a lot of teams in the Currie Cup win their away games.
‘Our only home game [against a weakened Lions] wasn’t even in Potchestroom, it was in Rustenberg, and even then we did very well until we were reduced to 14 men [went on to lose 40-19].’
The newly-promoted side have suffered big defeats against Griquas, the Lions and WP, but Willemse claimed it could have been a different story.
‘In our first game against Boland, we lost 26-18 despite scoring three tries to their two. We were disallowed a try in the second half when the referee decided not to use the TMO. If he did, we would’ve been ahead and could have gone on to win the match.
‘We gave silly penalties to an in-form Griquas team after competing very well in the first quarter. Our ill discipline cost us the match. Against the Lions, we played very well until the red card [centre Japie Nel was sent off in the 60th minute for grabbing a player's private parts]. We were trailing 15-10 at half-time, but they dominated with their one-man advantage.
‘Only last week against WP we were out played, but otherwise we are competing well and at times we have been better than our opponents.’
It has been a big step from the First Division and the lack of experience has been a telling factor for the Leopards. However, Willemse is adamant his side will develop into a competitive team after the first round of matches.
‘Last week, one of the Province players had more Currie Cup experience than my entire team. That’s the problem I’m faced with. I don’t have the luxury of buying top players, so I have to select players playing in the lower divisions with little or no top-level experience.
‘At the moment, we have six or seven players in the team who’ve been able to make the step up at this stage of the season. With only half the team performing well, you can’t expect to win matches, but every week two more players come through. So hopefully the whole team will be able to perform much better soon.
‘We play Boland and Griquas at home at the start of the second half of the season. After those matches, we can determine if we can compete in the Currie Cup.’
The Leopards’ next fixture sees them face the Sharks in Potchestroom on Friday.
Leopards: 15 Russell Jeacocks, 14 Jovan Bowles, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Berndt Theissinger, 11 Jan van Zyl, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 RW Kember, 7 Wilhelm Koch (captain), 6 André Swanepoel, 5 Edrich Linde, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Barend van der Walt, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 Divan Kotze Subs: 16 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 17 Philip Lemmer, 18 Rynard Landman, 19 Bennie Adams, 20 Theo van Wyk, 21 Bom Samaai, 22 Danie Dames.
By Gareth Duncan