WP in a good space ahead of Bloem trip
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Western Province head coach John Dobson says there is a positive buzz in his squad ahead of their Currie Cup opener against the Free State Cheetahs on Sunday.
Province started their campaign with a bye in Round One, but that has allowed Dobson to integrate some of the Stormers players in his training after Robbie Fleck's side went down 11-17 to the Chiefs in the Super Rugby quarterfinals.
And despite that defeat, there is still a lot of positivity amongst the players joining the Currie Cup squad.
"Maybe in years gone past some guys would feel a bit let down after the anticlimax or the hype of Super Rugby, but they are all very keen," said Dobson, who coached Western province to the National Provincial Challenge title this year.
"There is a really good culture in the Stormers. I think what's been very good this year is how closely aligned the teams are, so the integration [between the teams] is almost seamless because the systems are same across the board. That's a credit to Fleckie and [Director of Rugby] Gert Smal on how they got it working."
While having some Stormers players available is a boost for Western Province, Dobson admitted he was on keen on seeing how his Provincial Challenge stars faired against the defending Currie Cup champions this weekend.
"It is a bit tough because at one stage obviously, we planned around taking the Provincial Challenge team to Bloem this weekend to play the Currie Cup champions. So, I feel a bit sad we are not going to in some ways as the Stormers aren't in the [Super Rugby] semifinal and you do feel a loyalty to the guys that put in so much.
"But the truth is there are some amazing players in the Stormers team who will be available and who need some rugby. Every single one of them who have been mooted as possibly playing on the weekend are as keen as mustard," Dobson added.
Dobson said it will take something "special" from his team to beat the Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium.
"This is definitely a very hard game for us. The Stormers went up there a few weeks ago, it was a pretty tough game and that was with all the big-name players playing for us, so to go there with what will be largely a Challenge team will be tough.
"They [Cheetahs] haven't lost there [Bloemfontein] since 2015. I suspect, and I can't put words in their mouth, what they are trying to do is trying to get as many Currie points as they can before they go into Pro12, because I think they had a great Currie Cup success story last year when they went unbeaten.
"We are aware that they are probably targeting this game as a definite win for them. It is essentially their Super Rugby team, so we are going to have to do something special this weekend.
"We are expecting them to play just like they played against the Stormers - a really good tempo game. They will punish any mistakes of ours and you saw the pace and even their set piece last week against the Sharks, so we are in for a hard afternoon," said Dobson.
By Warren Fortune