VIDEO: Key battles in Newlands derby
CURRIE CUP SPOTLIGHT: Western Province is looking forward to getting their own back when they host the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
Aside from the not so small matter of it potentially being the last big north-south derby at Newlands, there is the rather uncomfortable result from their last encounter – when the Bulls smashed the Stormers 39-6 in a Round Four Super Rugby Unlocked match.
This is a different competition, albeit only in name, but the teams are largely the same.
Province believe they have ironed out the ‘creases’ that were evident in their loss at Loftus Versfeld last month.
“There are some aspects of our game we improved on since we played them,” WP forwards coach Rito Hlungwani told a virtual media briefing this week.
“We struggled with that loss, but we worked hard at improving our game and want to show that [improvement] this weekend.”
Hlungwani and lock Salmaan Moerat both touched on the key areas – with the set pieces and the breakdown two aspects that will get a lot of attention in the build-up to the Newlands derby.
The biggest change for the Bulls from four weeks ago is in the second row – where one-time Springbok Jason Jenkins has returned to his club in Japan, Verblitz, after a three-month loan stint with the Bulls.
In the first month of the competition Ruan Nortje partnered Jenkins in the Bulls’ second row, with Cheetahs import Sintu Manjezi providing cover off the bench.
Another Cheetahs import, Walt Steenkamp, arrived in Pretoria at the start of November and partnered Jenkins in the Round Five (30-25) win over the Lions, before Jenkins departed. Subsequintly Nortje and Steenkamp were the starting locks, with Manjezi still providing cover off the bench.
Despite the obvious physicality that Jenkins’ presence brought in the Round Four Loftus showdown, Hlungwani believes Steenkamp, a very good lock, poses a very different threat.
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“He has been very consistent the last few years,” the Province assistant coach said, adding: “He is probably a better line-out jumper.
“It will still be a tough set-piece battle.”
Moerat, who felt WP did not play to their full potential at Loftus, were building nice momentum before last week’s cancelled match against the Sharks.
“These [north-south] derbies are always special and it is a lot more special when we play at Newlands,” Moerat said.
He admitted there were a few aspects of their game they need to rectify.
Unlike the Bulls, who recently had a significant change in the second row, WP have a far more settled lock partnership in Moerat and John Schickerling.
“He is a very smart line-out organiser,” Moerat said of his second row partner, Schickerling.
“The calmness that he brings to me and the rest of the pack is very valuable.
“I have been enjoying playing alongside him the last few years. We are starting to get to know each other.”
The other feature of the Loftus boilover that will be crucial at Newlands on Saturday is the breakdown.
Moerat admitted the Bulls pose a “massive” threat at the breakdown.
“They have quality ‘fetchers’ in Marco van Staden and Duane [Vermeulen].
“We will have to counter that, as the breakdown is always a key aspect of any game.
“We have to do what we can to generate quick ball for our backs.”
Moerat, like Schickerling a former Baby Bok, said there will be no psychological hangover from the Loftus loss.
“After the game we spoke about getting another shot at them, within four weeks.
“It is an exciting prospect and something we are looking forward to and keen to go this weekend.
“It is always a massive game against the Bulls.”