Rassie’s Sharks surprise

Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus has a few tricks up his sleeve for his side’s Vodacom Super 14 clash against the Sharks in Durban this weekend.

The Cheetahs are looking to do the “Durban double”, having shocked the Sharks in the Absa Currie Cup at King’s Park last year, by playing a conservative 10-man game. This infuriated Sharks coach Dick Muir who accused the Free Staters of playing negative rugby.

“Free State played a negative game and it worked,” said Muir at the time. “They outsmarted us, tactically we were outplayed, and I take the blame for that. We were not able to adapt accordingly.”

Erasmus’s response was short and to the point. “We just wanted to win,” he said. “We needed the four log points and we played to our strengths.”

The Cheetahs arrive in Durban this Saturday, desperate for their first win of the season. With the Sharks having beaten the Chiefs in their opener, Erasmus’s side need four log points to stay in touch with the leading pack.

“We might do a few things differently this time around,” Erasmus told keo.co.za on Monday. “What I want to achieve is a balance between explansive and conservative rugby. There’s a time to kick and a time to spread the ball wide.”

The Cheetahs’ season got off to the perfect start last Friday when winger Eddie Fredericks scored in the first minute, but it was the Bully Boys who left Bloem with five log points.

“Look, we didn’t play well,” said Erasmus. “But we did well to come back to within two points of them with two minutes to go. What I’m very disappointed about is the fact that we conceded 10 points in those final two minutes, which cost us a bonus point.”

Erasmus made three late changes to his starting XV last Friday, bringing in flyhalf Willem de Waal, hooker Trevor Leota and prop CJ van der Linde. While the media suggested the coach was playing mind games against the Bulls, Erasmus says the conditions forced his hand.

“There was a lot of rain in Bloem during the week and the field was hulluva heavy and soft under foot,” he said. “CJ trained on the field on Thursday and said his foot wasn’t hurting as much because the field was so soft. I then decided to give him 20 minutes at the start of the match, as we wanted to take the game to the Bulls scrum. Trevor is also quite a heavy guy, so I wanted him to start and give the Bulls a tough time early on. As for Willem, the conditions were ideal for a kicking game.”

Erasmus also dismissed allegations that he was making illegal front row substitutions.

“Jannie [du Plessis] left the field with a gash above his eye and had to have seven stiches,” he said. “He sure looked injured to me.”

A record crowd of 40 000 attended Friday’s match in Bloem, which pleased Erasmus and everyone at the Free State Rugby Union.

“People are already saying that we won’t fill the stadium for our next game,” he said. “That’s going to be our next challenge – to bring them back. It was our performances over the last year and a half that filled the stadium on Friday. There’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”