Luke Watson and Justin Melck have not been fooled by Rassie Erasmus’s downplaying of the Free State side, and expect a tough scrap amongst the forwards at Newlands.
Erasmus told keo.co.za on Tuesday that the Vodacom Cheetahs have beaten three struggling teams, and that he expects a whole new level of play this Saturday.
He was also quick to talk up the Vodacom Western Province loose forwards, suggesting that in this area the men from Bloemfontein would struggle.
Watson smiled when he heard of this. “I have the greatest respect for Rassie as a coach and tactician,” he told keo.co.za, “but I don’t for a second buy the downplay.”
The Cheetahs have won the last three games by huge margins, passing fifty on each occasion. For this match-up they have selected a bigger blindside in Bian Vermaak which should make a difference in the set pieces.
“It’s difficult to compare the two loose trios. I would think that with their selection of a bigger blindside that they are looking to bulk up. But we are confident that we will be able to match them on the day.
“They also enjoy attacking from the line-out, and Vermaak will give them an extra option there.”
Watson’s flanking partner Justin Melck agrees with the perception that Province are on-form at the moment, but is likewise wary of the champs.
“I don’t want to sound too confident about Saturday, but we are growing more complete as a unit every game,” Melck said.
“Our main focus against the Cheetahs will be the speed to the ball at the breakdown. This is where I believe the Cheetahs have been strong. Securing the ball here will go a long way to winning this match.”
The WP team will be without Peter Grant for the rest of the season due to a fractured shoulder, which should disrupt the momentum that they had going in the midfield.
“Peter has performed well for us and has been playing some good rugby with Naas (Olivier),” said Watson. “He runs phenomenal lines and his defense has been awesome this season.”
It is still unconfirmed whether De Wet Barry or Sarel Potgieter will start at inside centre against the Cheetahs. WP coach Kobus van der Merwe told a press conference on Wednesday that if Grant was unable to play, Potgieter would step in as Barry is still unaccustomed to the new calls and structures.
By Jon Cardinelli