Bloem will be about balance

Bevin Fortuin has confirmed that Free State will play the smart game against Vodacom Western Province tonight, mixing a conservative approach with some running rugby.

The Vodacom Cheetahs come into this match on the back of a 39-28 loss to the Lions. Picking up the points in Bloemfontein will be crucial, as they face a tough run-in to the playoffs with games against the Sharks and Vodacom Blue Bulls.

“We owe ourselves the win after last week’s performance,” Fortuin told”I think we tried to create a bit too much against the Lions and it did not work.

“We are not looking for revenge for the Newlands game two months ago, but are rather trying to lift ourselves after the loss at Ellis Park.”

The benching of specialist fetcher Kabamba Floors and the inclusion of a lock on the flank in Barend Pieterse indicates the Vodacom Cheetahs will play a much tighter game. However, Fortuin insists that they have not abandoned the running game which has made them one of this year’s most exciting teams.

“We will still play running rugby, but I suppose you could say that we will be more conservative at the start.

“I think Willem de Waal has been unfairly labelled as a conservative flyhalf, as he gives us a lot of options on attack. He is a well-rounded player with a great tactical game and his kicking out of hand will play a big part in tonight’s match.”

While De Waal may aim to turn the Province forwards around and kick for territory, Fortuin is certain that there won’t be any high-balls put up on the dangerous WP back three of Joe Pietersen, Sireli Naqelevuki and Gio Aplon. Aplon was named Man-of-the-Match for his counterattacking efforts against the Bulls last week, and the Cheetahs will be reluctant to give him any extra space.

“I have played both with and against Gio, as we were team-mates at Sevens level. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, and we will definitely have to watch him, as well as the Western Province wingers. All three of them are very good Sevens players.

“Kicking to them would be the wrong option. We must ensure they receive as little ball as possible.”

The weather should be perfect for this encounter, and so conditions will be optimum for running rugby. But the real contest will be in the line-outs, where Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss will have four jumpers to aim at in Corniel van Zyl, Rory Duncan, Barend Pieterse and Darron Nel.

“You don’t have too many scrums during a game of modern rugby, so the line-outs are the primary platform of attack,” Fortuin said. “Rassie [Erasmus] realises this and that is why he has gone for more options in the line-out. It is vital that you secure possession on your own throw.”

by Jon Cardinelli

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