WP the 'fittest and strongest' team
WP the 'fittest and strongest' teamSHARE
Superior conditioning and clever player management were major contributing factors to Western Province's unbeaten Currie Cup run.
The Cape Town outfit, who will defend their Currie Cup crown against the Sharks in the 2013 Final at Newlands on Saturday, will head into the grand finale a very confident team.
Having taken on allcomers this season, WP emerged with eight wins and two draws – those being 24-all against the Blue Bulls at Newlands in Week One and 31-all against the Lions three weeks later.
They have beaten the Sharks twice this season – 25-19 at Newlands in Round Five and 17-13 at Kings Park in the final week of league action.
However, it is not those stats that are providing Province with the self-believe they are taking into Saturday's Final.
It is the knowledge that they have put in the hard yards off the playing field and on the training pitches, while also making sure they all manage themselves well.
"Confidence is not where we are, as a team playing a Final this time round," coach Allister Coetzee told a media briefing, when asked about the self-assurance emanating from the camp.
"Confidence is who you are and who we are as the Western Province team is what we have experienced in the past and build on that.
"We have grown and there is a lot of maturity in the team and what we stand for and the leadership in the team."
Coetzee pointed out that in previous years they played semifinals and finals without key players.
However, this week – perhaps with the exception of captain Deon Fourie, who is struggling with a neck muscle injury – they will have their best available team and then some in reserve.
"Should players not make it, in most positions we are still covered," Coetzee said, adding: "Rynhardt Elstadt, Nizaam Carr, Michael van der Spuy are all ready and all can step up and step into the team.
"Because of that we as coaches also feel we are in a better position than in previous years."
The WP mentor admitted there has definitely always been a focus on conditioning this year.
"We wanted to be the fittest, strongest team in the competition," he said.
"That is how we prepared the players."
Coetzee added that it is also a combination of how the players manage themselves, especially the senior players, and team management's relationship with players.
"Players don't wait at training till they feel a muscle is about to get stiff, they come and talk to us about it and we are sensible enough not to think that when a player wants to sit out on a Monday that he is unprofessional about the whole thing."
The coach spoke of the mutual trust and respect in the squad.
Despite the great faith in themselves and their abilities, Province feel they won't make the mistake the Sharks did last year – when the men from Durban went into the Final outright favourites and were upstaged by the lesser-ranked WP outfit.
"We know what it is like to be the underdog, we have experienced that," Coetzee said of the 2012 Final in Durban.
"That, within itself, is a massive motivation," he said, adding: "We are under no illusions.
"Being at Newlands is fantastic and great, but there are no guarantees.
"We have to be even better than [last] Saturday [in the semifinal against the Lions]. We have to start better and we have to stay in it for 80 minutes.
"We don't want to be in a situation in a Final where you take so long to work yourself back and get your dominance back."