Free Staters fire first shots

Cheetahs captain Juan Smith has warned the Bulls to expect a repeat of the Currie Cup final when the teams meet again on the opening weekend of the Super 14.

The Loftus showpiece was a bad-tempered affair, with off-the-ball incidents testing the patience of referee Jonathan Kaplan. The Bulls are still hurting after their shock defeat and are desperate to get their year off to a winning start in Bloemfontein.

Both teams will have new captains, with Victor Matfield taking over from Anton Leonard and Smith filling the boots of Naka Drotske.

“We realise the final was a huge setback for the Bulls,” Smith told Die Volksblad on Wednesday. “It emphasises the necessity for every Cheetahs player to be ready for 10 February. We are training even harder.”

Smith says the Cheetahs are keen to show that last year’s Currie Cup success was the start of something big.

“We want to prove to ourselves that the victory wasn’t a fluke and that we deserved to win,” he said. “Our supporters see us, the Currie Cup champions, as the torch bearers.”

In the only previous Super 12 meeting between the teams, in 1997, Free State beat Northern Transvaal 35-23 at Loftus. Free State finished eighth on the log, with Northerns in ninth position. In 1998, Free State and Transvaal joined forces to form the Cats.