Province to express themselves

Western Province’s talented backs hope to capitalise on their forwards’ dominance at Craven Week.

Head coach Chris October says his side will look to dominate upfront before spreading it wide.

‘Games are won in the tight forward exchanges,’ October told ‘We need to perform our primary roles before we can think about an expansive game plan.

‘I have full confidence in our pack of forwards to lay the foundation and open up space for our backs capitalise on. But for this to happen we need to be disciplined in our structures. By that I mean we must be solid in our scrumming, sharp in our lineouts, aggressive in the rucks and mauls and quick to the breakdowns. We get these primary functions right, and half the battle is won.’

October wants his chargers to express themselves when the right opportunities present themselves.

‘This is a talented bunch of players who, given the opportunities, will create something special. Sometimes situations arise when the player with the ball is on his own … give him the chance to make something happen for himself and the team. But rugby will always be a team game; we need to be together as a unit to come out on top. And I have full confidence we have the squad to make good things happen at Craven Week.’

Having enjoyed a successful pre-Craven Week build-up with wins over Eastern Province and South Western Districts in a four-team coastal warm-up, the team left yesterday for a training camp in Bloemfontein where they will be based at Grey College for the next five days before heading to Welkom on Monday for the start of the annual Craven Week showpiece.

In the two victories over their coastal rivals, October said he was happy with the improvement shown in the win over SWD.

‘It was the first time the team had played competitively since the announcement of the 23-strong squad. We played as individuals in the win over EP but gelled as a unit in the second game where the boys looked pretty sharp in all areas of the game,’ said October. ‘It presented me with a clearer picture in terms of my starting XV for our first match of Craven Week against the Golden Lions. But there are still chances available to one or two guys in certain positions.’

Each member of the WP squad is guaranteed one full game.

WP faces an acid test in the game against a Lions side that scalped the Blue Bulls in a friendly encounter in an unbeaten tournament build-up. But October has done his homework and is confident his side has the qualities to come out on top.

A good start for Province may well see them take on Free State in the showpiece game provided they win their middle game against an as yet unknown opponent. Province are the defending champions after scoring a last gasp win over Free State last year.

By Mike de Bruyn