Naas Olivier will oppose another former Leopards man in Willem de Waal when their two sides meet in Bloemfontein on Friday.
De Waal has come into the starting line-up with Meyer Bosman out for three weeks with a broken hand. In the big games where close finishes are the norm, he is invaluable for his kicking game.
“I think that with Willem it’s a case of what you see is what you get,” Olivier, the Vodacom Western Province flyhalf told keo.co.za. “Meyer Bosman is a lot less predictable, and his injury should be a great loss to their team.
“But take nothing away from Willem. I have played with him up at the Leopards, so am well aware of his capabilities. He’s a really strong pivot with a superb kicking game: tactically and for poles as well.”
The game is billed to be a festival of running rugby, but the heavy Vodacom Cheetahs pack that excludes a specialist fetcher indicates that the Free State side may lean towards the conservative. Nevertheless, Olivier explained that WP are taking nothing for granted.
“They aren’t the Currie Cup champions for nothing. The fact that they need to win this week at home will make them all the more threatening. They do have a great running game and our defence is going to have to be at its best.”
Following his solid performances in the Vodacom Super 14, Olivier has progressed well at first receiver, offering plenty of options on attack for the Cape Town side. Province have scored a lot of tries from broken play, and he feels that their on-field innovation is what makes them both successful and dangerous.
“Our unpredictability is our major strength. We are enjoying our rugby at the moment and our confidence is high. That shows on the field.”
The Cheetahs have also gone for more options in the line-out, with lock Barend Pieterse moving to the flank to allow Corniel van Zyl to come back into the side. WP have been preparing for the line-out onslaught all week, as good first phase possession plays such a vital role in any game plan.
“They place a huge emphasis on their set-pieces and the first phase, and have the best line-out jumpers in South Africa. One of the keys to their success this season has been the way their forwards have provided a solid platform for their backs to score. It’s going to be a really tough game.”
by Jon Cardinelli