Midfield dilemma for WP

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Johnny Kotze and Kobus van Wyk could be a surprise pairing this weekend, following captain Juan de Jongh’s injury and Jaco Taute’s poor performance in last Saturday’s scrappy 9-3 win against at a wet and windy Newlands.

Outside centre De Jongh left the field midway through the second half with a knee injury. He didn’t put any weight on it when he was helped off the park, and was taken to hospital for a scan straight after the match. He will have another scan, and the severity of the injury will only be known today.

But it seems unlikely that he will be fit for this weekend’s clash against the old enemy, which is a massive blow for WP coach John Dobson, who was likely to shift his captain to inside centre and bring in Kotze at outside centre for the Bulls match.

Taute was poor in the wet conditions against the Cheetahs, conditions that should have suited him perfectly.

The former Springbok centre should have given WP a lot more go-forward in the midfield, but he was cumbersome and slow. His passing also leaves a lot to be desired, and is certainly not where it should be for an inside centre at this level.

Dobson has been itching to unleash Kotze at outside centre, and he may have featured on Saturday if wasn’t for the concussion he sustained in the first match against Griquas. The WP coach said at the start of the season that Kotze’s best position is at No 13, although he featured on the wing for the Stormers at Super Rugby.

“Juan has gone for a scan. It doesn’t look too flash, but we will know by Monday. Johnny comes into the frame,” Dobson said after the match.

“De Jongh is a big blow, but we are actually blessed at centre. We have got Kobus, Johnny Kotze and Huw Jones. For a start, it might be Johnny or Kobus, but we might just change the centres completely.”

But the fact that WP are playing the Bulls may just see Taute retain the No 12 jersey, because bringing in two new players, who haven’t played together at this level, could be a bit of gamble.

However, there may be a change at halfback for this weekend, as Dobson could opt for the experienced Jano Vermaak against the Bulls after his tidy cameo off the bench against the Cheetahs.

Hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who was released from the Bok squad after carrying tackle bags for the last few months, is also in contention to start this weekend, although Bongi Mbonambi is playing really well at the moment. He has especially stepped up his game in the lineouts.

However, WP couldn’t quite capitalise on their field position from their lineouts, as their driving maul was a bit of a shambles. They also struggled on their defensive maul.

De Jongh opted to kick penalties to touch during the first half, but the pack’s lack of execution at maul time, and the handling of the outside backs in the wet, let him down.

WP almost paid the price for these missed chances at the end of the match, but a great ankle tap by the diving Kurt Coleman on Ryno Benjamin in the dying minutes saved a certain Cheetahs try, which would have given them a chance to win the match with the conversion to come.

“We dominated the game, but we turned over too much ball. We just kept on losing the ball, and we came within a Kurt Coleman desperate dive from losing the game,” Dobson said. “I was very happy with our lineouts. What I was really concerned with was our mauling. My major disappointment today was our mauling and stopping of their maul.

“The players heard about it at halftime and fulltime, because if we go to Loftus next week like that we are in trouble. We have to fix that.”

“The scrum was our bailout today. I was on the radio saying ‘lets go, lets get our exit like that’. I was very pleased that those guys can keep going with the scrum culture in the absence of the likes of Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff and Eben Etzebeth.” - Cape Times

Original source: Midfield dilemma for WP

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