Even though Investec Western Province were knocked out at the semi-final stage of the Currie Cup competition there were a number of positives to be taken from the past season.
That is the viewpoint of Investec WP director of coaching Nick Mallett. He said it was understandable that the supporters would become emotional if the team doesn’t win, but the coaching staff has to look at it differently.
“You cant throw your toys out because of one loss. You got to actually say to yourself lets have a look at what we can learn from it and the positives.
“The particular positive is the blooding of young players, players that haven’t had opportunities in the past,” said Mallett. “We’ve re-signed them and kept them here.
“These players have now played a home semi-final and they are not old guys going through the emotions. These guys are really determined for success.
“The other positive was also the five black players in the starting line-up and also finishing with six. Compare that with the teams that we played… We have a very proud record of bringing through talent,” added Mallett.
He expressed his concern about Province’s tight five, but said it was not something that is going to be solved with the signing of one or two players.
“We are looking right throughout South Africa for players, a better quality than the once we got here and they are very hard to come by. It is impossible to get hold of them – they are under contract or they are not better than the guys we got.
“As for the overseas players, it is a simple question of finance. It is just very expensive. Firstly, they are under contract as well and secondly they are earning in rand terms twice as much as our top Springboks earn in Currie Cup and Stormers contracts.
“So given that that is an issue, we have to look at the players we’ve got. “We are determined to develop these players and give them opportunities. If I could just say that one of the shining lights and one of the examples was Ross Skeate.
“He is a guy who had the opportunity and played a number of consecutive games and really just every game took another step up. He really benefited from the opportunities he was given.
“JD Moller and Neil Fullard are youngsters of about 23, 24 and they must play. They got to test themselves and we got to get them stronger in the off-season. Andries Bekker, I believe, if he had been given the same opportunity, would have had a big impact on this Currie Cup.
“The blooding of young players and understanding the issue of the tight five in mind, I believe we will have a side in the Super 14 who would be perfectly capable of winning our first phases.
“We won’t be scrummaged off the ball and we will win our lineout, I’m convinced of that. We will have an off-season where these coaches will be preparing and working really hard with the players.
“This will be the first opportunity these coaches have to work with these players over a long time and set up a proper game plan with proper options.”
Mallett warned that the Super 14 would be a tough one. “We must accept it is going to be difficult. We don’t know the concept of 14 teams.
“It looks if perhaps the Australian teams are slightly weakened. But then the same could go for the SA teams, because when you consider there are five South African teams who are all looking for three tightheads and four locks, the talent is spread far more thinly throughout the country.
“So the level at which we will have to perform will be a learning process for the team and these coaches. Mallett used the example of the Stormers performance in Otago where the previous coaches utilised the young talent of JD Moller, Andries Bekker and Pat Barnard.
“In that game the front five played very well and it was a game where we drew against Otago, a side renowned for scrummaging ability. We don’t have to be negative about these youngsters. These guys are going to be a helluva lot better in three years’ times.”
The coaching director said they would not set unrealistic goals for the Super 14. “For the Super 14 we have set the clear objective of finishing ahead of three of the other four South African teams.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we have the relegation Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” said Mallett.
Province signed Griquas tighhead prop Attie Winter and lock Duimpie Theron in an effort to bolster the problematic tight five.