Cheetahs must give it air

Eugene Eloff believes that the champs can beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls this weekend if they play expansively.

The SAU19 and Lions coach may have no immediate interest in this fixture, but as a rugby scholar he admitted that it has all the elements of a classic. Eloff even went so far as to suggest the battle may end in a stalemate.

“It is going to be an intensely close game, and I think that we may very well be in for the first draw in a Currie Cup final for 17 years,” he told Keo.co.za.

The Bulls, or Northern Transvaal as they were known back then, could not break the deadlock and ended up sharing the honours of the 1989 competition with Western Province.

Although Eloff believes in the possibility of another draw, he speculated on a few ways for the final to be won. The home side have been impressive on attack this season, their outside runners scoring some amazing tries. Phillip Burger’s try record in tihs competition speaks for itself, while Passens’s double-try display against the Sharks indicated that he is not a player who should be underestimated.

“It should come down to who best utilises their possession,” Eloff explained. “Both teams have very strong packs and it should be a big battle in the tight phases, but the Cheetahs need to attack the Bulls and get the ball wide.

“While this should be the Cheetahs primary aim, if the Bulls want to win this one they will need to halt the Cheetahs’ inside runners.”

Free State flyhalf Willem de Waal will be a target in this respect. The Bulls disrupted the veteran’s rhythm in the previous encounter in Bloemfontein, and the impact had a domino effect throughout the backline.

The fact that De Waal is not 100% fit will also play into the Bulls’ hands. He may make a full recovery ahead of the match, but the groin injury he has been nursing all week should effect his kicking to a certain degree. The ramifications of this are palpable, as with Derick Hougaard on song the Cheetahs cannot afford to miss any chances.

“Tight matches like these are often decided by penalty kicks, and so both De Waal and Hougaard will be key men for their respective teams,” added Eloff.

“It will be a close finish, but expect to see a high-scoring game with some great running rugby.”

By Jon Cardinelli