Ronnie Cooke says he is ready to mete out retribution for the heavy first round defeat the Griquas suffered at the hands of the Vodacom Cheetahs.
Cooke makes his debut for the Kimberley side on Saturday following a two-month lay-off with a stress fracture in his left leg, and the 21 year-old said his side has banished the memory of their 55-14 loss to Rassie Erasmus’ men.
“What’s happened in the past is history,” he told keo.co.za. “We played really poorly in that game but since then we’ve improved considerably.
“If the Cheetahs are coming here expecting a walkover they will have to think again,” he asserted. “We are ready to dish out some revenge. And I want to play a big part in that.”
Cooke’s recovery has been arduous and his smack talk belies the fact that this is a young man whose psyche still bears the scars of concern for his future in the game.
His voice becomes sombre when he tells of the difficult period.
“At one stage the doctors said it was worse than they’d initially thought. These types of injuries have no specific type of treatment process, you just have to rest and hope that it heals quickly.
“When you look at other sportsmen who have had the same type of injury and see them out of the game for up to a year, it makes you worry, but now I’m back and hopefully the injury is behind me.”
Cooke knows his opponents well, having starred for the Cheetahs in the 2006 Vodacom Super 14 season. But he maintains that kind sentiment will be abandoned when he pulls on the Griquas No 13 shirt.
The Cheetahs will be aware that Kimberley’s Absa Park has claimed its fair share of giant scalps this season, with both the Sharks and the Lions succumbing to the added gees the hosts play with at the venue.
Griquas’ strength has been their workman-like pack and Cooke said his team is unlikely to stray too much from the strategy that has brought them relative success thus far.
“The forwards have been really good and we’ve got them to thank for the fact that we are still in with a outside chance of a semi-final spot,” he said before highlighting that one should not discount their backline.
“If they [the forwards] can set up a good platform for the backs to run a bit, I think you’ll see a spectacular rugby game. ”
The Cheetahs are one of the most balanced sides in the competition. A talented pack and an attack-minded backline will ensure that Griquas will have to maintain their defensive structure for 80 minutes, in order to dodge another drubbing.
“The Cheetahs thrive on getting quick ball from the base of the scrums and rucks so they can throw it around a bit,” Cooke notes.
“Our plan will be to stop that from happening. If we can put pressure on their first phase ball and also stop them from drawing our defence in by setting up multiple phases then I think we’ve got a great chance of an upset.”
The Cheetahs come into this game on the back of a 24-12 loss against the Bulls and he believes that the effect of that result could play to the host’s favour.
“I know Rassie and he would’ve given them an earful about that performance,” he said. “Maybe they’ll come here a little deflated.
“We lost against [Western] Province but we took a lot of confidence out of that game and that will show in our play.”
By Ryan Vrede
Griquas vs Vodacom Cheetahs – 3pm , Absa Park, Kimberly
Griquas: 15. Tiger Mangweni, 14. Vuyani Dlomo, 13. Ronnie Cooke, 12. Herkie Kruger, 11. Bobby Joubert, 10. Conrad Barnard, 9. Tertius Carse, 8. Frans Viljoen, 7. Gareth Krause, 6. Wayne van Heerden, 5. Windpomp van Rooyen, 4. Lodie Britz, 3. Hedley Wessels, 2. Willie Wepener, 1. JanÃ© du Toit. Reserves: 16. Tiaan Liebenberg, 17. EugenÃ© van Staden, 18. Cilliers Coetzer, 19. Heinrich Stride, 20. Jacques Burger, 21. JP Joubert, 22. Zane Kirchner
Vodacom Cheetahs: 15. Bevin Fortuin, 14. Philip Burger, 13. JW Jonker, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Gavin Passens, 10. Willem de Waal, 9. Michael Claasens, 8. Ryno van der Merwe, 7. Darron Nel, 6. Kabamba Floors, 5. Barend Pieterse, 4. Rory Duncan, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Jaco du Toit, 1. Ollie le Roux. Reserves: 16. Richardt Strauss, 17. Wian du Preez, 18. Bian Vermaak, 19. Heinrich Brussow, 20. Falie Oelschig, 21. Chris Kruger, 22. Alwyn Hollenbach.