Cats coach Frans Ludeke believes his team can still rescue their calamitous season with just three games to go in the Vodacom Super 14 series.
Speaking after the Bulls pummelled his team 46-17 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, Ludeke remained defiant in the face of mounting calls for his head after another inept display by his charges left the Cats with just one win in ten games this year.
“There are three games left and all it takes is one victory and that can restore the confidence. After that we can go on and win the rest,” Ludeke said.
“Lots of the stuff we train is working in the games, but again we are just not finishing. The guys are still trying very hard. We are not hanging our heads.”
The Cats management has stated that their pre-season goal was to finish at least eighth in the inaugural Super 14. They wanted to follow that up with a top six finish in 2007 and then make the final in 2008. With a crucial match against fellow cellar-dwellers, the Western Force, at Ellis Park on Friday, another loss will see the Johannesburg-based outfit slip to rock bottom.
It is familiar territory for them, having finished last in 2003 and 2004. The Cats were second from bottom in 2002 and 2005. Another season in the bottom two simply cannot go unpunished. Heads must roll. Cats fans want actions and not excuses.
Whether they can actually turn things around next year and achieve a top six spot remains to be seen, but whatever they say now, 2006 has been a failure. And this is not by the fans standards or the sponsors, but by their very own admission.
When the team returned from a winless overseas tour, Ludeke asked to be judged on the home leg that so far has only seen the team take one bonus point from three matches.
The Cats lost 23-16 to the Reds, 36-8 to the Sharks and then 46-17 to the Bulls on Saturday. The Cats have conceded 12 tries and only replied with four, one of which was a penalty try.
The Force have also had a woeful season, but have showed improvement in virtually every game, while the Cats seem to be heading in the opposite direction. The match on Friday night at Ellis Park promises to be as tough an assignment as any the Cats have had this season.
Thereafter, the Cats host the Blues and then face the Cheetahs away in what will certainly amount to a big grudge match between the former Super Rugby allies.
By Andrew Hollely