Battered Cheetah Blues

Although the Vodacom Cheetahs prevailed in Bloemfontein on Saturday, the telling battle with the Sharks may have cost them several players.

“We picked up a few injuries over the weekend,” fullback Bevin Fortuin told keo.co.za despondently. “We will have to see how things go at training this week, but things are not looking so great at the moment.”

While Fortuin was reluctant to rule out or name any of the doubtfuls just yet, he did say that this could not have happened at a more inopportune time, with the final league game against the Vodacom Blue Bulls this Saturday and the semi-finals just a week later.

“This is unfortunate, but we are lucky that we have a lot of depth in the greater squad.”

The news is not only a blow to the Free State side, but to the Lions as well, as their playoff hopes hinge on the champions beating the Bulls in Pretoria this weekend. Eugene Eloff and his charges will be holding thumbs that the battered Cheetahs recover from their ailments in time to prevent a home win at Loftus Versfeld.

Free State have already lost flanker and captain Hendro Scholtz for the season, as well as winger Giscard Pieters. Flyhalf Meyer Bosman and lock Corniel van Zyl will only be available for the playoffs at earliest. The extent of the injuries to the current crop of players will only be known on Tuesday. Ollie le Roux and Alwyn Hollenbach were both forced from the field on Saturday, and may join this crocked list.

The game between the Cheetahs and the Sharks was a draining physical battle, and the Free Staters only took the points when Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar failed to convert a last minute try. But the champs feel that this was a game that they should have won more comfortably.

“Our defence was definitely a problem. It’s frustrating, because we had worked so hard on it the whole week before,” said Fortuin.

“I think that we just went to sleep in that period after half-time which resulted in them scoring those tries. We simply can’t afford lapses like that in the upcoming games.”

By Jon Cardinelli