Province will 'enjoy' Ellis Park shoot-out

Sun, 25 Sep 2016 19:48
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INTERVIEW: Western Province will be keeping a keen eye on Ellis Park on Friday, just hours before facing the Boland Cavalier at Newlands.

It is virtually a straight shoot-out between the Golden Lions and Sharks for a spot in the Currie Cup play-offs, when they meet in the final round of league action.

WP must still beat the Cavaliers in their clash at Newlands, to book their play-off spot.

However, they will have the advantage of knowing whether they require just a win against their Western Cape rivals or must win with a bonus point.

The table-topping Free State Cheetahs (unbeaten on 34 points) and second-placed Blue Bulls (30 points) are the only teams guaranteed of places in the semifinals.

The Sharks (25), WP (23) and Lions (22) are chasing the two remaining play-offs spots.

If the Lions win with a bonus point and the Sharks get two bonus points out of the game, Province will be vulnerable and will require a bonus-point win of their own.

WP coach John Dobson admitted his team's slow start - they lost three of their first five matches - left them with a lot to do in the latter stages of the competition.

However, they are not just in the top four, but also in a handy position.

"We have left it late, but I always knew the Currie Cup competition was going to be between the five so-called big unions competing for four spots," Dobson told rugby365 in an interview - following a 52-31 win over Griquas in Kimberley at the weekend.

"Griquas did well," he said of the Northern Cape team - which still have an outside chance of getting back in the play-off race, despite the big loss to WP.

"However, I always looked at the fixtures between those top teams as a mini league - the Sharks, Bulls, Lions, Cheetahs and Western Province playing for four spots."

Dobson pointed out that four of his team's first five games were against the big guns.

"- I always knew that would be the decider," he said, adding: "You didn't want to drop three [suffer three defeats in those games]. You could afford to drop two.

"That was why our loss to the Cheetahs at home [in Week Three] was so terrible and that was why the Bulls were under pressure when the Lions went to Loftus [Versfeld]. If the Bulls had lost that game they would have been in trouble.

"Our last three games were against the Pumas, Griquas and [this week] Boland [Cavaliers].

"The Bulls also had a pretty comfortable run-in after they played the Lions [a 31-17 win]," he said of the Pretoria outfit's wins over the Pumas (41-14), Griquas (57-20) and Boland Cavaliers (48-26).

"The Sharks started the season very well and they were unbeaten. Then they had to play us [WP], the Bulls and Cheetahs [and lost two out of those three games].

"They still have to play the Lions this coming Friday and one of those two teams are going to be very disappointed," Dobson said of the Sharks team that could finish second or lose out.

"It is a massive game at Ellis Park on Friday.

"It is just a pity it is at 17.00 on a Friday, as it is going to be a great game of rugby - just as that [Free State] Cheetahs versus Lions game was that Thursday in the week before last.

"Obviously we have not qualified for the semifinals yet, we still have to beat Boland.

"However, it may turn out four points may be enough.

"We will know that when we run onto the field. If the Lions win or the Sharks don't score two bonus points then four points [against Boland] will be enough."

By Jan de Koning

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Team P W D L Pts
Free State Cheetahs 8 8 0 0 39
Blue Bulls 8 6 0 2 30
Western Province 8 5 0 3 27
Golden Lions 8 5 0 3 26
Sharks 8 5 0 3 25
Griquas 8 4 0 4 21
Boland 8 2 0 6 11
Pumas 8 1 0 7 10
EP Kings 8 0 0 8 1