Cheetahs preparation to pay off

The Vodacom Cheetahs have been building towards this Sharks game for two weeks according to Ollie le Roux.

The Free State side punished the lowly Pumas by 68-12 in Witbank last week, but the captain dismissed this game as a mere formality.

“We were never in a mindset where we were preparing for the Pumas,” Le Roux told “The Sharks have been our primary focus since beating Western Province.”

With numerous combinations and positional switches being tested throughout the season, Rassie Erasmus’s masterplan is finally coming together. The Cheetahs come into the final two games having experimented with every player in their extended squad, and should be settled on the team to take them all the way to the final.

But Le Roux feels that the greater squad may still play a role in the Cheetahs’s successful defence of their domestic title.

“I think that there’s a bit more to it than that. You need different combinations for different games, and so Rassie has been clever in trying out different partnerships for various reasons throughout the season.”

The team will have to be at its best in the next fortnight, with the Sharks and the Vodacom Blue Bulls needing a win to book a place in the semi-finals. A loss to either side could thwart Erasmus’s plan to host a playoff.

“There is a lot of pressure on both teams this weekend, but we should be ready for them.

“Things have been going according to plan this season, except for a few hiccups. Our losses to WP, the Bulls and the Lions were signifcant ones, and it showed us where we needed to improve.

“If you lose a game and don’t learn anything from the loss, then you are wasting your time. We showed in the second game against WP [in Bloemfontein] how much we had learned from the previous encounter, and duly won the match.

“These types of lessons will be invaluable when it comes to a semi-final or final.”

By Jon Cardinelli