In recent seasons there has been a lot of hot air blowing out of the mouthes of the powers that be at The Hallowed Grounds of Newlands. Administrators, coaches and captains have resolutely stood by their structures and vowed to change their fortunes, whilst pleading with and convincing their faithful to trust in the defensive path they have chosen to walk. I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words and feel that it’s time to see some actions coming out of The Hallowed Ground of Newlands.
This weekends result against the Bulls was a tough pill to swallow. An experienced Province team was in control of their opposition and the scoreboard for the majority of the match, but managed to show a serious lack of BMT when it mattered and ended up drawing to a younger and less experienced Bulls outfit. The manner in which Bulls replacement flanker Jean Cook was escorted to the try line in the 78th minute by a host of Province players was sickening to watch and raised a serious question mark over the dedication of some of the players to Western Province’s long-time ethos of ‘playing for the guy next to you’.
The first half was a fantastic performance by the hometown team as they showed a willingness to swing the pill around and entertain the crowd but come the last 40, as the Bulls edged closer thanks to the educated boot of Tony Jantjies and as the pressure mounted, Province suddenly began to crumble. Their scrum began to go backwards – thanks in part to a nightmare of an evening for Brok Harris who has not seemed to come to grips with the new scrum calls – resulting in their backs struggling to mount any sort of front foot attacking opportunities. The Bulls sensed the bounce of the ball had turned in their favour and thrived on it.
A struggling scrum can be worked on in the week. Decisions made in the heat of the moment can be assessed and dealt with. BMT however cannot be taught or worked on. Winning tight affairs cannot be coached. It can only be learnt when a team or an individual finds themselves in a situation where there is no tomorrow. Where the consequences are such that the occasion forces your game to either raise itself or crumble. Learning to handle and come out on top of these matches is a habit. So too is losing. Unfortunately it would seem that this season, Western Province have learnt how to lose close games.
Sure my tone is such that you would have thought that Province had lost this fixture. The reason for my drab tone is simply that I am tired of hearing the stuck record. I am tired of hearing the excuses and seeing no forward movement. I am tired of being told that this team is in a building phase and that we should give them time to learn. Let’s not forget that this is an outfit who have lost two home Super Rugby semi finals and one away final in the past four seasons and have vowed to learn from their mistakes and to come back stronger because of it. They have had ample opportunity to experience and learn what BMT is. But have they? Have they learnt to handle the big occasion and come out on top? It would seem not.
It is early days though and I hope that this only serves as a wake up call for Province.