When first plays last tonight in Witbank, the Vodacom Cheetahs will be looking for a far better performance than their showing in Round one.
Free State have struggled against the Pumas in recent times, and this fact manifested itself on 22 July in Bloemfontein where the home side escaped with a 42-27 win. The victory for the champs was the first since 2002, and ended a four-game losing streak to the side from Witbank.
“I don’t know why we play badly against them,” Cheetahs flyhalf Willem de Waal told keo.co.za. “In the past they have had some really good players like Marius Goosen and Casper Steyn, but I think they are lacking a few senior players these days.”
The first round efforts of the Cheetahs were lackadaiscal, their concentration failing them when they allowed the Pumas to score three tries after halftime. De Waal is adamant that there will be no repeat of this tonight.
“We are well prepared for tonight’s game, and are focused on picking up the win. As long as we stick to our structures, everything should be alright. We did this very well against Western Province last week, and are looking to improve on that performance.”
Man-of-the Match against Province and former Pumas man Hendrik Meyer will come up against his old team for the first time since moving down to Bloemfontein. De Waal confirmed that the big centre has flourished since joining the Cheetahs.
“I think he is looking forward to the game against his old side, but I don’t think it will effect the way he plays. I have only played with him once before, but the combination seems to be working. He’s an excellent ball carrier who is able to break the opposition line consistently.”
De Waal also waved away any concerns over the numerous changes affecting the rhythm of the team.
“Most of the changes made to our side are in the forwards and are due to injury,” he said. “The backline is only slightly altered with Eddie Fredericks coming in on the wing, and Falie Oelschig starting at scrumhalf. Falie has had a few starts this season, so we should lose nothing in terms of consistency in our combinations.”
By Jon Cardinelli