Cheetahs to exorcize defensive demons

The Cheetahs must tighten up their defence or risk another heavy defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

Rassie Erasmus’s side missed an incredible 40 tackles in Canberra, as the Brumbies ran riot in the second half.

Ironically, the Cheetahs were thumped 50-23 by the Brumbies in the 1997 Super 12 in a similarly one-sided encounter at Canberra Stadium.

When asked about the 40 missed tackles on Saturday, Erasmus said it had nothing to do with a lack of enthusiasm.

“The commitment was there,” he said, “but the execution wasn’t right. We are still learning, and showed if we keep running hard we can build momentum.”

Cheetahs manager Naka Drotske was equally disappointed with the result but said it should be put into context.

“We are a young side and are still learning,” he said. “We will be a brilliant side in two or three seasons time. People mustn’t forget that Gregan and Larkham have more Tests to their name than our entire side.

“We should be compared to the Western Force, who are also in their first season of Super 14 rugby. We remain positive because we know we’ll do better when we play our three home matches at the end of the tournament [against the Blues, Force and Cats].”

Drotske’s comparison to the Force is dubious at best. The Free State Rugby Union was established in 1895. They are the reigning Currie Cup champions and played a year of Super 12 rugby in 1997. The Western Force franchise was started from scratch last year, and has no previous experience at this level of competition. They are expected to come last in the Super 14. The Cheetahs most certainly are not.

Meanwhile, captain Ryno van der Merwe said they were hoping to rescue the tour with improved performances against the Crusaders and Chiefs.

“Our next two matches are in New Zealand and we want to do better there,” he said. “I just hope we don’t suffer any injuries.”