Western Province looks to create defensive pressure away from breakdown

15 July 2019 - 17:18 By Craig Ray
SP Marais of Western Province and Ruhan Nel congratulate Craig Barry for scoring a try during the Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls at Newlands on July 13 2019.
SP Marais of Western Province and Ruhan Nel congratulate Craig Barry for scoring a try during the Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls at Newlands on July 13 2019.
Image: BackpagePix

Western Province are taking a less traditional defensive approach in the Currie Cup this year as they try to create turnovers in areas where teams might be more vulnerable.

That’s the word from Western Province defence coach Norman Laker.

After his side kept the Blue Bulls to a single try in their 20-5 Currie Cup round one win at Newlands on Saturday‚ Laker was satisfied but not overjoyed.

The role of the defence is not only to smother opposition‚ but also to create scoring chances from turnover‚ and in that area Province are still hard at work as they look to create ‘chaos’ as coach John Dobson put it last week.

“Rugby has changed because you don’t only want a ‘traditional’ turnover from an openside flank at a breakdown‚” Laker said.

“Teams can realign their defence quickly in that scenario.

“You want turnover from when‚ say‚ a scrumhalf passes to a flyhalf and they make a handling error under defensive pressure. Then it’s a proper turnover that puts them on the back foot because they have less structure.”

But Laker was at pains to stress that the breakdown remains a key battleground and would still be a vital component when Province meet the Sharks in Durban in round two this weekend.

“The breakdown is still a priority in terms of slowing the ball down‚ which gives you the chance to bring line speed on defence‚” Laker said.

“If no one is slowing the ball at the breakdown you can’t get that line speed.

“That is the way we want to play and is something we started in Super Rugby. Due to lots of injuries we haven’t had the continuity in that area‚ but we are working on it.

“We have a few players who are doing a job for us. Jaco Coetzee‚ Juarno Augustus and even Ernst van Rhyn have been doing well.

"Scarra Ntubeni is also phenomenal at it. We are trying to make it a habit.”

Despite keeping the Bulls scoreless from the seventh minute‚ Laker wasn’t patting himself on the back too much.

There were several moments when only desperate scrambling defence by the likes of scrumhalf Justin Phillips and fullback SP Marais saved the day.

“There are some areas we can improve from last week‚ but I was very happy that we kept that good Bulls backline scoreless for 74 minutes of the match‚” Laker said.

“But even so Rosko Specman had two or three opportunities when he could have scored and only our scrambling defence saved us. We need to improve that.”

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