The Vodacom Cheetahs remain upbeat despite a heavy loss to the Sharks over the weekend.
The Durban side secured a rare 30-14 win in Bloemfontein to maintain their unbeaten run and solidify a spot in the top four. By comparison, the Cheetahs are struggling at 10th and another loss could defeat their ambitions of qualifying for the playoffs.
The task is made harder by news that CJ van der Linde’s calf tear rules him out for the remainder of the tournament. Coach Rassie Erasmus has had no luck after a great Absa Currie Cup, where he took the no-name brands to the title yet again. There were pre-season concerns of the Cheetahs’ depth, but nobody expected it to be tested to this degree. The injury toll continues to climb mercilessly.
“We have had a bad run with injuries, but we need to get on with it,” Naka Drotske told Keo.co.za.
“It’s obviously going to disrupt your chances when you lose a world class player like CJ. We have discussed our situation at length and have decided it’s time to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to perform.
“We can still technically qualify for the semi-finals, but from here on in it’s important we go out there and enjoy our rugby.”
The Cheetahs host the Brumbies this Saturday before they leave for Australasia. Despite the loss of Van der Linde, Drotske believes they can still dominate the match in the traditional manner of outmuscling the opposition forwards.
“If there is a department where we can take them on it’s definitely in the set-pieces. Our scrums and line-outs are our strengths whereas they don’t place as much emphasis on these areas.
“It may also help that this will be their first game on tour. South African teams sometimes struggle when they go Down Under because of the trip, and it’s the same with Aussie and New Zealand sides. They are never as sharp in the first game, but then again there are no easy games in this competition.”
The good news for the Cheetahs is Bevin Fortuin and Rory Duncan have shown no ill-effects of injury in their comeback matches for the Vodacom Cup side. Erasmus is yet to announce his side, but should have the pair in mind. Duncan will add some aggression to the pack while Fortuin’s solid kicking game at the back is something the Cheetahs have been missing this season.
By Jon Cardinelli