“We normally have a man of the match award; we’re not going to hand it out tonight. That second half was an embarrassment to Western Province rugby,” Dobson added.
The defending champions imploded in the final half-hour, surrendering five tries, and an 11-point lead. Not since 2003, and a 64-29 loss against the Bulls in Pretoria, had Province conceded more than 46 points in a match.
The WP coach has reason to be embarrassed and disappointed with the result, but all is not lost.
In the first half, Nizaam Carr showed promising leadership ability, Demetri Catrakilis won an intense kicking duel against his opposite number, and Oli Kebble and Bongi Mbonambi teamed up to shred the Bulls scrum.
Their combined efforts saw the visitors head off for the half-time chat with a 16-15 lead and good reason to feel confident about stitching up WP’s third straight north-south derby victory.
This feeling was confirmed when winger Dillyn Leyds showed great anticipation to pick off a Burger Odendaal pass for a long-range intercept-try five minutes into the second-half.
“The major disappointment came after we scored an intercept try when it was the Bulls who deserved to score,” Dobson said. “We celebrated like we’d already won the game. That was poor behaviour by us, and the writing was on the wall.”
That writing must have been in ancient Sanskrit because very few would have been able to translate Leyds’ score into WP’s imminent capitulation.
“It’s easy to say now that we had a plan for the second half...” a relieved Nollis Marais, coach of the Bulls, admitted afterwards.
There’s no doubt that complacency played a part in Province fading, but substitutions and the Bulls’ deviation in kick-off tactics were equally responsible.
Veteran Bulls tighthead Werner Kruger was monstered by Kebble in the first half. Both players were replaced at the 50-minute mark, and this resulted in a complete reversal of the scrum dynamics.
“Dayan van der Westhuizen was brilliant,” Marais said of Kruger’s replacement, who had anchored the SA U20 scrum at the 2014 Junior World Championship.
Van der Westhuizen plugged the leak in the Bulls’ set piece and, when Jaco Visagie took over from hooker Bandise Maku with 20 minutes to go, the hosts assumed control of that contest.
Simultaneously, Marais’ team changed tack at the re-starts.
“If you look at all the matches we’ve played, even our Under-21s, we always kick deep right and stick to that plan,” said the Bulls coach. “We decided to change that, and look where Province were vulnerable and attack that.”
What Bulls captain Lappies Labuschagne saw was that WP centre Jaco Taute had been deployed to receive the short kick-off on his own – the conventional set-up handcuffs the No12 and the hooker together.
The Bulls dropped the ball on Taute, Labuschagne beat him in the air to tap the ball back, and some complacent defence allowed Odendaal to rumble across the line.
A Demetri Catrakilis penalty followed, but the visitors were again caught by surprise when the Bulls kicked deep left at the ensuing re-start. The ball was fumbled in the tentative exchange between Catrakilis and Mbonambi, and the Bulls scored again.
And poor decision-making on defence chaperoned the Bulls to paydirt for a third time in quick succession from the next kick-off.
“I thought it was an exceptional performance by the Bulls,” added the WP coach.
The Cheetahs opened their campaign with a 57-19 loss against the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein. In the build-up to their round-two visit to Newlands, Dobson downplayed the Free State side’s culpability in a loss that he labelled as “an aberration”.
Similar perspective on his team’s performance on Saturday might well be in order. With Carr and Catrakilis controlling the scoreboard, and Kebble and Mbonambi handling the scrum, Province were in position to beat the Bulls – a team that had scored scored 93 points in two matches – at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls have adopted the counter-strike tactics that carried Province to the Currie Cup title last season. Now it’s time for Dobson to further develop those plans and keep the defending champions one step ahead of their rivals and on the same path to success.
There are holes that must be patched before WP head up to Bloemfontein to battle the Cheetahs on Friday (kick-off 7.10pm), and therein lies the opportunity to prove that this setback was nothing more than an aberration. - Cape Argus
Original source: Loftus implosion a wake-up call for WP