There is a rumour doing the rounds in Johannesburg that if the Cats lose to the Sharks at Ellis Park this coming weekend, coach Frans Ludeke’s job could be vacant by this time next week.
The bosses at Cats headquarters would not confirm this, obviously, but the rumour has existed since before the loss to the Highlanders in their last match on tour. It is doubtful the Cats bosses will make any drastic changes midseason, but the pressure is mounting for some decisive action from the beleagured franchise.
This comes in the wake of a string of defeats and a record of played eight, won one in 2006.
Former Cats coach and Springbok assistant Tim Lane told Keo.co.za last week that he had heard from Australia that the axe was due to fall if the Cats lost their last tour match, which they did – 16-14 to the Highlanders. It didn’t fall though.
Then a well-respected and highly placed source involved at the union revealed at the weekend that if the Cats did not win against the Reds it could be all over for the coach today. Now it seems Ludeke will be given one more chance to inspire his Calamity Cats to reach the level required in the Vodacom Super 14.
Ludeke has admitted it’s back to the drawing board for his team following their insipid 23-16 loss to the Reds at the weekend.
Said Ludeke: “Everyone is disappointed because we put in the hard yards every week. We just got back from our five week tour where we learned a lot of new things and we hoped that we could make things right this week.”
Well, after losing all five matches on their forgettable overseas tour, the Cats returned to Ellis Park on Saturday determined to defeat their demons and in with a gilt-edged chance of downing the Rubble Reds. It was victory many hoped for and even predicted, but instead they produced a haphazard display of error-strewn rugby that saw many of the already small crowd depart before the final whistle was blown.
Ludeke though refuses to admit the season has spiralled out of control just yet and continues to be bullish about the Cats chances of turning their fortunes around. “The good thing is that we have five games left, so we will just have to start over again this week and hope that things will work out for us.”
And this week at least they play a South African team – the Sharks – at home, but considering Dick Muir’s lads are on a high after beating the Reds two weekend’s ago and have had a week’s break, Ludeke and his charges have a week filled with more “hard yards”.
The Cats remaining matches are against the Sharks at home, Bulls (Pretoria), Force, Blues (both at home) and Cheetahs in Kimberley to finish off.
Three of those matches are effectively Currie Cup clashes, which could go either way, while the Force must be ripe for a hammering on the Highveld. If the Cats cannot get at least three wins from these, the writing could be on the wall.
“We gave it a full go by stretching the defence. But all credit to the Reds, they defended well. There were also times that we were slow at getting to the breakdowns. But Monday we will work on that. If we get to the ball quickly and get go-forward, we can get the ball over the try line.”
Captain Wikus van Heerden agreed: “It is a lack of finishing. We had opportunities (to score tries) and we just could not finish it off. If a team cannot finish it will end up second best.”
It is getting to the point where Cats fans are gatvol of constantly ending up second best. A reversal of fortunes is required urgently. The Sharks simply have to be beaten on Saturday or Ludeke’s time could finally be up.
By Andrew Hollely