If you don’t keep ball and hold on to it they’ll run you ragged
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has highlighted ball retention as the key to beating the Golden Lions ahead of the teams’ encounter at Ellis Park on Friday.
Coetzee, in the wake of the Lions’ 62-23 hammering of the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, said much of their focus is centred on protecting their ball and starving the free-running Lions of possession.
Such an approach is in stark contrast to the gameplan Western Province employed in their 20-19 win over Griquas in Kimberley at the weekend, when they relied on their resolute defence and preyed on turnover ball.
Coetzee said that while the Cape side are determined to find a balance between attack and defence, retaining the ball was the way to go against the Lions.
“There are times when we will look to put them under pressure by kicking the ball and there are times when you have to ask questions with ball in hand and we must get that balance right,” Coetzee admitted.
“If you play up on the Highveld against the Lions you have to put them under pressure by keeping ball in hand. They have good counter attackers so they can run it [kicks] back. We want to kick and get the ball back but also hold on to the ball.
“This is a quality Lions side who are oozing with confidence. It’s a big challenge for us. We know we’ll have to counter attack from deeper on the Highveld and if we don’t get that opportunity, we’ve got to make sure we defend and use turnover ball well.
“That’s one aspect I was really pleased with last weekend. We had three opportunities from turnover ball which we executed and got the points, so from that perspective our defence will be important.
“We’ll have to be accurate in terms of our set-piece, they ask questions there, and if we have opportunities we’ve got to finish those.
“You also can’t give the ball away - the Bulls saw it - if you don’t keep ball and hold on to it they’ll run you ragged,” Coetzee said.
Coetzee added that they would have to improve their discipline after conceding a string of penalties and free kicks against Griquas.
“Our discipline was a killer. We conceded the most penalties and free kicks last week [than any of our previous games], so we have to look at that and therefore didn’t have possession and had to defend the most of the time,” he said.
Western Province captain Deon Fourie said they have focused on their attack and on improving their handling after making numerous handling errors in Kimberley.
“It’s [the number of knock-ons] unacceptable at this level especially in such dry conditions. We let ourselves down in terms of our attack and it’s something we’ve worked hard on this week,” he said.
The utility forward added that it would take a complete 80-minute performance to leave Ellis Park with a victory as the Lions boast quality depth.
“A guy like Jaco Kriel who’ll be coming off the bench has shown what speed and skill he has, so we’ll have to be on our toes for the full 80 minutes,” said Fourie.
Experienced fullback Gio Aplon said they are wary of the Lions’ well-roundedness and insisted they would be prepared for the tactical battle.
“Elton [Jantjies] is a quality player and Marnitz Boshoff and Guy Cronje are also good kickers of the ball, so they can vary their game,” he said.
“Especially at the Highveld it’s a kicking challenge so I’ve looked at that. Elton is a Springbok with a good rugby brain, so we have to really look after that aspect of the game and be prepared for it.”